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Many long-term carers not had a day off in five years

A Carers UK study warns carers are at breaking point due to lack of support.

Almost a third of long-term carers (32%) have not had a day off in five years, according to a new report.

The study found a lack of respite available for the 3,841 people surveyed who have been caring for five years or more.

Among all those who have been caring for a year or more (5,168), 40% have not had a day off from caring for more than 12 months.

The report, from the charity Carers UK, warned that people were at “breaking point” due to the lack of support they receive, while some have seen a cut in the social care offered to them.

The study comes as new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that 8% of the UK private household population are informal carers for another person.

Of these, 59% are female and 29% spend 35 hours a week or more on caring.

When women reach 50, they are likely to spend 5.9 years of their remaining life as unpaid carers, the figures also showed.

At 65, they spend 2.6 years as unpaid carers.

In contrast, men aged 50 are likely to spend 4.9 years of their remaining life as an unpaid carer and, at age 65, it is 2.7 years.

In the Carers UK report, 68% of current carers who have been caring for over a year and have not had a day off for more than a year say their physical health has worsened.

Meanwhile, 72% said their mental health has suffered.

Almost seven in 10 (69%) struggled to get enough sleep due to caring, while 45% have found it difficult to keep up a balanced diet.

Nearly half of respondents (46%) said they have suffered from depression because of their caring role.

Helena Herklots, chief executive of Carers UK, said: “More and more of us are stepping in to provide care and support to loved ones and doing so for more hours every week.

“Without access to breaks, carers can quickly reach breaking point, unable to look after their own health, nurture relationships with friends and family or have the time they need to themselves.

“Our research shows that carers are struggling to get a break because appropriate support for their loved ones isn’t available or services they rely on are being cut or charged for.

“Given the enormous value of unpaid care provided by the UK’s 6.5 million carers, estimated to be worth £132 billion each year – getting some time away from caring to spend time with a partner, get to a medical appointment or just get a full night’s sleep surely isn’t too much to ask.”

A Department of Health spokesman said: “Carers do an incredible job supporting others and we want to make sure they feel supported too.

“That’s why we gave carers more rights through the Care Act and the Better Care Fund includes £130 million to fund carers’ breaks.

“We are committed to improving social care which is why we will consult later this year and put it on a stable footing for the future.”

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