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Carers don’t know they are carers, research reveals

4 April 2012

Vitalise study finds family carers don’t realise they are entitled to support

New research by charity Vitalise shows that millions of family carers are putting their health at risk because they are unaware of respite services available to them.

As Easter approaches and families plan to head off for well-earned breaks, a review of recent research by Vitalise shows millions of carers around the UK are unlikely to be going anywhere.

The review, which collated the findings of research conducted by various organisations over the past five years, reveals that many carers don’t see themselves as carers because they are unpaid and consequently don’t realise they are entitled to respite support. As a result they are unable to take time away from caring.

As the population ages and age-related disabilities such as Alzheimer’s and dementia increase, older carers are bearing the brunt of the problem, studies reveal. Many older carers can no longer find work or are forced to retire and find that Carers’ Allowance ceases at retirement age.

Worse, the studies found that over half of older carers had not even received a Carer’s Assessment since they did not regard themselves as carers. As a consequence they were unaware that local authority funding for respite care and short breaks existed.

The report was commissioned by Vitalise and presented as evidence that more needs to be done to reach out to carers and provide them with vital information about their statutory entitlements.

Vitalise Chief Executive Chris Simmonds said:

“This review paints a very stark picture. The problems people with disabilities and carers face in accessing essential support - such as funding for respite breaks - is already well documented, but this review reveals that there are many more people out there who don’t even know they are carers and therefore entitled to support. They are doubly disadvantaged as a result.

“Clearly more needs to be done to reach out to this army of invisible carers across the UK, since without the escape valve of regular time off from caring, we know only too well that carers risk reaching breaking point and ending up sick, depressed, and facing the very real risk of becoming disabled themselves.

“Vitalise was founded for the precise purpose of supporting families struggling to cope with disability and restoring hope and dignity into their lives. It would be a crying shame if the respite breaks we lay on at our centres went unclaimed because people in desperate need didn’t even know they were entitled to visit. The carers of the UK should not be left to suffer in silence.”

Red the full research on respite care provision (PDF)

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