Dr Ros Altmann, Director-General of over-50s organisation Saga, commenting on a study by The Princess Royal Trust for Carers, which says older carers are themselves suffering failing health because of their efforts.
“Saga frequently sees the impact of the caring burden on family carers. We appreciate the strain - both physical and mental - that caring can place on families struggling to look after their loved ones. Indeed, we have set up a charity specifically to help provide much-needed respite care for older carers,” said Dr Ros Altmann, Saga Director-General and a trustee of the Saga Respite for Carers Trust.
"We urge the Government to take this issue more seriously and, in particular, we call on Ministers to ensure that the £400 million allocated for respite care a few months ago is properly ring-fenced for that purpose.
"Unpaid carers save billions of pounds for society, but they need more support and some respite can massively improve the quality of life of carers. The Report from the Princess Royal Trust highlights some big problems and, as our population of older people is set to vastly increase in coming years, its findings are quietly alarming.
“That so many older carers - some surveyed were reported to be 94 years of age - are reporting failing physical or mental health because of their commitment to loved ones is of absolutely no surprise to those in the frontline of care and those who are trying to drive care reform. It’s only going to become a bigger issue – the number of carers is expected to rise from 6 million to 9 million in the next 25 years.
“Carers need breaks. Respite care will allow carers to continue their massively valuable role for as long as possible, and this could be achieved, at least in part, by ring-fencing the £400m Government has allocated for respite breaks - but the sad fact is that as it is not ring-fenced, carers are unlikely to see the whole benefit of this investment. This is something which the Government could and should act upon today.
“It is not in the nature of carers to complain, so it is vital that their friends and supporters persist in driving awareness of the plight of carers – and it is absolutely crucial that GPs are vigilant in overseeing the health of carers, doing everything possible to provide them with both screening and support. We also believe that GPs should be able to prescribe respite or even domiciliary care.
“The benefits associated with a trained and supported workforce to provide respite support and a care team to provide cover when the pressures of caring for a loved one become too great should not be underestimated in either social or financial terms.
“Unpaid carers receive minuscule financial support and benefits - yet they are amongst the hardest working people in society; many do not have the option ever to take a break of two weeks – or sometimes even two minutes.”
For further information please contact the Saga Press Office on 01303 771529.