A caring generation - results from the Saga/populus panel 2008

Tuesday 10 June 2008

A caring generation - results from the Saga/populus panel 2008

Caring for someone is highly demanding. Over 60% of carers feel stressed or tense; two thirds of them receive no benefits or financial support despite the extra costs they bear; nearly a third of long-term carers have never taken a holiday from their care duties.

* While most carers (54%) have taken a holiday away from their caring responsibilities (ie not with the person they look after) in the last year.

* Nearly a quarter (24%) have "never" taken a holiday away from their caring responsibilities. For those who have been carers for longer than 10 years, this figure rises to 31% – so nearly a third of all long term carers have never taken a holiday away from their care duties.

* Long term carers are also much less likely to have taken a holiday in the last year – only 42% of these carers have, compared to 54% among all carers.

* The reasons for not taking a holiday are mixed; with worrying too much while they were away chosen by 30% (of those who have caring responsibilities and who haven’t been on holiday in the last year) and not being able to afford to chosen by a quarter. For those who have been on holiday, in most cases (53%) care was provided by another family member while the main carer was away.

* Carers faced a range of health issues as a result of being carers; over a quarter (27%) said they neglected their own health concerns, over a third (35%) said they suffered from anxiety and 3 in 5 (61%) feel stressed or suffer from tension.

* When asked about the biggest impacts of having caring responsibilities, the most common biggest impact was having less time and space for myself, chosen by 37% of carers. 76% ranked it as one of the three biggest impacts. Other big impacts were having less time to meet friends / pursue leisure interests and a reduction in the amount of time that can be spent with other family members.

* Two thirds of carers said they receive no benefits or financial support for providing care. Only 12% claim carer’s allowance.

* Nearly a third (31%) say that providing care costs them up to 50 a month, and 36% say they spend over 50 a month on providing care (18% say 51 to 100 and 18% say over 100.) Even taking account of the benefits they receive, two thirds of carers are left out of pocket.

* When asked what would have the greatest impact on making life as a carer easier, the most popular first choice (chosen by 32%) was additional income (perhaps echoing the fact that two thirds receive no financial support). Taking all preferences together, greater income and more day care support were each chosen by 54% of respondents.

* The majority of carers provide care to a single person (84%), with 14% providing care to two adults. The average age of the person cared for is 75. 57% of carers provide care for an older relative (like a parent) while 30% provide care to their partner. (15% of respondents in our sample had caring responsibilities for an adult. All the figures in this section refer to percentages within this group of carers, not to the panel overall).

Comparing Carers and Non-carers

Our survey represents a demand for more to be done to help carers. A majority thought full time carers should at least receive a minimum wage for the hours they work. The carer’s allowance – claimed only by 12% of carers – is worth the equivalent of 1.44 an hour.

Carers and non-carers hold broadly similar views on which reforms the government should introduce. On both measures – by number of mentions as first choice, and total mentions – free personal care even at the cost of increased taxation is the most popular option among both carers and non-carers. While higher benefits for carers is the 2nd most popular first choice among carers, for non-carers the second place goes to a statutory right to respite care. One notable area of difference is over better access to information; while 38% of carers rank this in their top three, only 18% of non-carers do.

The survey suggests that both carers and non-carers believe that full-time carers should be treated as full time employees in terms of pay and respite. 65% of carers, and 71% of non-carers, believe that full-time carers should be paid 5.52 (the minimum wage) or higher. Fewer than 1% felt that the current carer’s allowance – which implies a wage of 1.44 an hour – was appropriate. In terms of respite, 3 in 5 – 61% of carers, rising to 65% of non-carers – believe that full-time carers should receive 21 days or more holiday a year (the statutory entitlement for full-time workers.)

There was a more noticeable difference between carers and non-carers in their attitudes to whether social services should provide cash or vouchers for care. Those with caring responsibilities for an adult split roughly evenly on the issue – 52% in favour of vouchers, 48% in favour of cash – while those who do not provide care were much more strongly in favour of vouchers – 74% favoured vouchers, with only 26% saying cash.

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