New research by the charity Carers UK reveals that 10.6 million people will take on a new unpaid caring role for relatives and friends who are sick or disabled over the next five years, but unless changes are made, will be left under-equipped to deal with the challenges of caring.
The analysis, published to coincide with national Carers Rights Day on Friday 28th November, shows that as our population ages, the pressure on families to provide care and support to loved ones will continue to increase.
The research estimates that over 2.1 million people will find themselves in a new caring role every year, facing new challenges and often trying to juggle work and other family responsibilities with looking after an older, disabled or seriously ill relative or friend. This works out as just under 6,000 people a day or 10.6 million over the next five years. A caring role also comes to an end for 2.1 million people every year.
Chief Executive of Carers UK Heléna Herklots said:
"Taking on a new caring role can happen quite suddenly and people can be thrown into a situation which turns their lives upside down. It could be because a partner has a stroke, a parent has a fall or a child is born with a disability. It's vital that anyone caring for a loved one seeks advice to ensure they are getting the services and support they are entitled to.
"Without help and assistance carers can find themselves facing financial hardship, health problems, emotional stress and relationship breakdown. They can be pushed to breaking point. This has serious consequences for individuals and families and for employers and the UK economy as a whole.
"A third of people caring at any one time will be new to that role. This presents a big challenge for services, local authorities and the NHS as they need to identify and reach out to new carers who are not accessing essential help and support. With the Care Act coming into force in April 2015, it's an opportunity to make this happen for carers."
Previous studies have shown that £1.1 billion of Carer's Allowance goes unclaimed every year and 42 per cent of carers have missed out on financial support as a result of not getting the right information earlier.
Carers Rights Day, organised by Carers UK, brings together more than 900 organisations across the UK every year to help carers in local communities to know their rights.
Carers UK is calling on public bodies to make a number of changes to help carers access the support and services they are entitled to. These include a legal duty on health and education professionals to identify and support carers, improved access to information and advice and better partnership working between Government departments.
Carers UK has launched a new Carers Rights Guide in time for Carers Rights Day. The guide includes important information including details on upcoming changes to carers' rights. In April 2015 carers will gain new entitlements to assessments and support. The earnings threshold for Carer's Allowance, the main carers' benefit, will also rise from £102 to £110 per week.