Report finds UK social care system will “collapse” without unpaid carers

uk social care system, healthcare
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The Social Care 360 Report finds that unpaid carers contributed time worth £400 million to the UK social care system – daily, since the COVID-19 pandemic begun

The 2021 Social Care 360 report comes at a time when COVID-19 dominates the healthcare landscape, with a knock-on impact on social care. Thousands of individuals across the country, isolated in lockdown with a sick relative or loved one, have been forced to take on a caring role.

The Kings Fund was established in 1897 by the then Prince of Wales, purely to distribute funds in support of London hospitals. Today, the Fund also releases research on the state of health and social care in the UK.

The number of unpaid carers went from 6.5 million to 13.6 million as the UK went into lockdown.

The number of unpaid carers went from 6.5 million to 13.6 million

A new, exhausted loneliness for unpaid carers

In some situations, carers are working full-time to keep paying bills, while returning home to another job – the task of looking after someone they know, to a level that leaves them exhausted for their paid labour.

Some were wary of external help, as early stories from the US showed care homes decimated with COVID deaths and hospitalisations.

COVID has brought up conversations about the trauma experienced by professional healthcare workers, and then separately the impact of loneliness on the human brain. When it comes to individuals who are unrecognised healthcare workers in their homes, a new, exhausted kind of loneliness emerges. Mental health has been described as a shadow pandemic, haunting the population as a secondary effect of how the virus limited, changed and took lives. The report found that carers of people with intellectual disabilities were most likely to experience increased mental health problems.

‘The carers used to really help with my stress’

76-year-old Gordon Weldon from Scarborough, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year and cares for his wife Sue with Frontotemporal dementia, has lost the paid carer who visited an hour a day and Sue can no longer attend a daycare centre four days a week.

Gordon said: “The carers used to really help with my stress, giving me some time off to look after my own health. But when lockdown hit, I stopped getting that care and the day centre closed. It was all on me, and I didn’t want Sue sitting in bed all day. So, I took it all on – the morning getting up, cooking all the meals, all the washing, the housework. Sue’s not able to do anything for herself now, so it was exhausting and I began to feel very depressed.”

£1.9 billion needed to save UK social care system

The charity Carers UK figures that carers in England are contributing the equivalent of £400 million worth of work, every single day since the pandemic begun.

The Health Foundation estimates that an extra £1.9 billion will be needed to meet demand for adult social care by 2024. But funding is also needed to meet existing unmet need and improve the quality of services, with even more will be necessary to cover the additional costs of the pandemic, fill vacancies and pay professional carers a fairer wage.

Currently, UK Government ambitions for social care have not been outlined in the latest reform proposals for the NHS.

Read the full analysis here.

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