The overwhelming majority of carers are forced to make their own practical and financial provisions with little or no help from the state.
The latest Saga Populus poll of over 50s paints a picture of an army of carers sacrificing their own independence and coping with the pressures of caring with very little support. Eighty seven per cent of carers said the loss of time and space to themselves was having a major impact on their lives.
Many carers have to balance caring for an older relative with the pressures of work or bringing up children. A fifth either had to give up work altogether or reduce their hours in order to cope with their caring responsibilities.
There is widespread confusion as to the financial and practical support available to carers. While most people who expect to assume caring responsibilities in future believe that they will be entitled to state benefits, the harsh reality is very different.
The vast majority of people with caring responsibilities do not receive any benefits at all (88 per cent). Significantly, 84 per cent of respondents did not know what financial support might be on offer.
The need for better practical support is also clear with 80 per cent of respondents saying they would use a support service were it available. Most carers are currently forced to fall back on family and friends when they need help.
Better day care provision and additional income are identified by carers as the measures that would have most impact in making their lives easier.
The huge importance of the role fulfilled by carers is further illustrated by the fact that 84 per cent of respondents would, if needed, rather receive care in their own home than anywhere else.
The current issue of Saga Magazine examines the issues around dementia and the impact that caring for sufferers has on families.
Key findings from the Saga Populus poll include:
-A fifth (20%) of respondents say they have caring responsibilities for a person over 60 - 25% of females and 16% of males.
- Of these, nearly a quarter (23%) say they care for their partner, while 71% say they care for another relative. 5% do not care for either of these.
- 23% combine caring with a person over 60 with caring for a younger person.
-Over half (55%) combine caring responsibilities with work. A fifth have either had to give up work (6%) or reduce their hours (14%) in order to meet their caring responsibilities. 39% say they still work as they did before they had any caring responsibilities.
-The majority (88%) are not currently receiving any carers' benefits. More than a quarter (28%) say they have had to make a complaint(s) about or believed there to be a problem with services for the person they care for.
-These complaints were most likely to be about failure to provide a service (63%) and least likely to be about ill-treatment (14%).
-Two fifths (40%) of people say they will ask a friend or relative for help if they need a break from caring. 9% say they do not manage to get a break at all.
-42% say that the biggest impact of their caring responsibilities is less time and space to themselves and 87% rated this as the biggest, second biggest or third biggest impact.
-They are most likely to say that additional income would have the greatest impact on making their lives as a carer easier (27%). However, 65% cite more day care support as one of the three greatest impacts compared to 48% choosing additional income.
Notes for Editors-
The Saga Populus panel is the UK's largest survey of the opinion of those aged 50 and over. The latest survey took place at the end of May and 7,904 people took part.
The Saga Group is the UK's leading provider of products and services specifically designed for people aged 50 and over. With 2.6 million customers Saga provides insurance, financial services and holidays, and publishes the monthly Saga Magazine.
For further press information please contact the Saga Press Office on: 01303 771529.