Belfast Telegraph

Third of unpaid carers in Northern Ireland have suffered from loneliness: report

Olive Donnan with her son Cameron (11), who has severe autism
Olive Donnan with her son Cameron (11), who has severe autism

By Chris Leebody

One in three unpaid carers in Northern Ireland experience feelings of loneliness on a constant basis or are often lonely, according to charity Carers UK.

The organisation, which campaigns for the rights of those caring for a family member or friend, yesterday published survey results of over 8,000 carers and former carers across the UK.

The charity carried out the research to mark annual awareness campaign, Carers Week 2019, which started yesterday. There are more than 270,000 adult carers in Northern Ireland - which equates to one in five people here who provide unpaid care - an increase of 8% compared to previous surveys.

According to the research, over half of carers said they were lonely because of not being able to get out of the house, or not having time to participate in social activities.

The findings also showed that unpaid carers reported being twice as anxious - with a third less satisfied with life - compared to the general Northern Ireland population.

Clare-Anne Magee, head of Carers NI, said more needed to be done to support carers.

"With as many as one in five adults in Northern Ireland now taking on an unpaid caring role it is high time our society recognises and values the crucial support they provide," she said.

"Many unpaid carers struggle alone without support. If we are to combat the loneliness epidemic facing them it is imperative that everyone - Government, employers, health and care professionals, schools and universities, and each of us individually - plays a role putting carers in touch with practical and financial help.

"Carers need to feel they are valued, understood and connected to their community."

Despite the challenges carers face here, Northern Ireland carers reported being 8% happier and more satisfied compared to their counterparts in the rest of the UK.

The report suggests that as many as 8.8m people could be acting as unpaid carers, up from 6.3m recorded in the 2011 census.

The theme for this year's Carers Week is 'Getting Carers Connected', with Carers UK encouraging the public to share information about caring within their local communities.

Some of the charity's government recommendations include improving financial support for carers through increases in carers' benefits.

The charity is also calling on employers to introduce at least five days of statutory carers' leave for workplaces.

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