It’s Carers Week this week – a chance for people, charities and employers alike to raise awareness of the huge contribution that unpaid carers of all ages make to UK society. Buzzfeed have even run a special issue on the topic – interviewing carers and discussing some of the challenges that they face.
In May of this year, Carers UK published a new report that looked at the causes and consequences of loneliness and isolation on adult carers in the United Kingdom. This blog summarises some of the main findings and recommendations in the report but we strongly recommend reading the whole thing!
How do unpaid caring responsibilities affect our relationships?
Carers UK sought the views of nearly 5,000 carers in the UK as part of a larger piece of research called the State of Caring. When they analysed answers given about relationships, friendships and loneliness they found that:
- 8 in 10 (83%) carers have felt lonely or socially isolated as a result of their caring responsibilities
- 57% of carers have lost touch with friends and family as a result of caring and half (49%) of carers say they have experienced difficulties in their relationship with their partner because of their caring role
- 38% of carers in full-time employment have felt isolated from other people at work because of their caring responsibilities
- Carers who have reached breaking point as a result of caring are twice as likely to say that they are socially isolated because they are unable to leave the house
The carers surveyed gave a number of reasons why they felt their caring responsibilities had led to them experiencing loneliness and isolation, including:
- not being able to get out of the house much (55%, rising to 64% for those caring for 50 or more hours a week)
- not being comfortable talking to friends about caring (36%)
- not having time to participate in social activities (61%)
- not being able to afford to participate in social activities (45%)
Problems with money were another trigger for loneliness and isolation. Three quarters (73%) of carers said that they had to cut back on spending money to see friends or family, and 43% were using the phone less to save money, making it difficult to stay connected and socialise.
Finally, 2 in 5 (41%) of the carers surveyed said that a lack of practical support was another obstacle to being able to maintain relationships, as it was difficult to take time off to see friends or make social gatherings.
What are the implications of this research?
The report argues that employers should create “carer-friendly policies” in their workplace to better support employees with caring roles to balance these duties with work. The authors also call on government to improve the financial support available for carers and ensure care and support services (for both the people that need care and their unpaid carers) have sustainable funding.
Voluntary sector organisations and community groups working with and for older people also have a role to play. They could help identify people with caring responsibilities, and recommend national and local advice services that provide both emotional and practical support – including Carers UK.
Services and friends alike could also seek to better understand and respond to the strain caring duties can place on relationships. About the research: This report is based on data from an annual survey of carers, conducted by Carers UK to collect evidence on a whole range of issues affecting carers’ lives.
You can read the full Carers UK report here.
This report was also featured in our most recent Research Bulletin, which contains the latest loneliness research and examples of good practice from across Europe. Take a look at the new edition here or catch up with older Bulletins here.