More than 70% of Northern Ireland's unpaid carers are worried about cuts to services, according to new research for Carers Week 2011 (13-19 June) and over half don’t know how they will cope as the axe falls on some of the vital support they rely on.
The cuts to services compound the financial sacrifice people make when they start looking after someone who is ill, frail or disabled. More than three quarters of those surveyed say they are worse off financially since taking on their caring responsibilities.
When people are forced onto benefits they find that Carer’s Allowance is the lowest benefit of its kind. The Carers Week research shows that two thirds of carers are surprised at how little help they get from the government.
Jules Wood cares for her disabled son. She says: “I am now hugely in debt, my savings have gone, I cannot pay essential bills like gas and electric, I cannot meet my full mortgage payments. Today I would have walked off a bridge if it weren't for my children.”
Another carer says: “I cannot work and this means my home is at risk of repossession. The person I care for will also be made homeless. We live in poverty.”
These are the very people who save the Northern Ireland economy £4.4 billion each year by relieving pressure on health and social services and serving their communities.
Hollywood actress Dame Judi Dench cared for her husband Michael who had lung cancer. He died in January 2001. She says: "As someone with experience of caring for a loved one, I am happy to offer my support to Carers Week. 3 in 5 people will be an unpaid carer at some point in their lives and many of them sacrifice everything to save our economy £119 billion every year. It’s time to give them something back."
Carers Week Manager, Paul Matz, says: “Many carers are already under a huge amount of financial and emotional pressure. Some carers are forced to give up work to provide 24 hour care. Some of them hold down demanding careers, working a double life as carer and employee. Some of them are children; those who should be the cared for, having to do the caring. Carers are extremely fearful about the impact of cuts on their lives.”
Adult social care services, which support families affected by illness and disability, are facing £1 billion worth of cuts in 2011-12 according to Social Services Directors*. This is at the same time as £425 million worth of new services will be needed, due to the aging population.
The theme of this year’s Carers Week is ‘The True Face of Carers’. It calls for greater recognition and support for the diverse – and often unexpected – range of people who give up their money, time and health to look after somebody else.
Find out more about Carers Week events in Northern Ireland: