Lack of support and awareness 'damaging carers' lives'
Millions of people who care for friends and relatives across the UK say their lives are being damaged by a lack of support from their communities and awareness of the work they do.
More than 6.5 million people who voluntarily look after disabled, older or ill family members or friends say their life chances are being limited by inadequate help from social services, the charity Carers UK said.
Carers say the lack of support and understanding about their role from the communities in which they live hits their health, well-being, relationships and finances.
A study of more than 6,000 carers found that half had let a health problem go untreated or seen their mental health get worse, while two thirds had been forced to give up work or reduce their hours to care for a loved one.
Fewer than a third said they got they help they need when there is an emergency, while just under half said they had struggled financially.
And three quarters of carers with some of the most intensive care responsibilities said their community did not understand or value their caring role.
The research, ahead of Carers Week, which is run by seven charities to celebrate and recognise the work carried out by millions of carers across the UK every month, shows that those who receive support face far fewer barriers to having a life outside their caring role.
Emily Holzhausen, director of p olicy at Carers UK, said: "Carers have told us that it makes a huge difference to their lives when they are supported by their local services and communities; whether that's being offered a flexible appointment to see their GP, having flexible working policies from their employers, or their school raising awareness of caring and disability.
"Despite this, the majority of carers told us that their local community was not supportive of their caring role, which in turn is having a significant and negative impact on their life chances.
"This report comes at an opportune moment, with a new Carers' Strategy in development in England, and new governments forming across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We're calling on individuals, organisations and governments to think about what they can do to improve the lives of carers in their community."
The charities are calling for adequate funding for social care to be prioritised by governments.