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Debt and worry consuming unpaid carers as they cut back on food and heating

17 October 2022
  • Carers UK urges new Prime Minister not to push people providing round-the-clock care further into poverty
  • Cutting back on food and heating is putting the health of carers and the older and disabled people they support at risk

Family members caring round the clock for loved ones who are older, disabled or seriously ill are being plunged into debt and struggling to afford food and bills during the cost-of-living crisis, new research by Carers UK reveals.

A survey by the charity of more than 12,400 current unpaid carers found that one in six (16%) are now in debt as they try to manage their monthly costs.

Those who have been caring for more than five years are struggling most, with one in five (19%) in debt compared to 9% of people caring for less than five years.

Those receiving Carer’s Allowance - just £69.70 a week for people providing 35 hours or more of unpaid care each week - are worst affected. Two in five (40%) of carers receiving Carer’s Allowance are in debt as they try to manage their costs. More than a third (35%) are cutting back on food and heating, with four in ten (39%) saying they are struggling to make ends meet.

Dan McEvoy cares for his 9-year-old daughter Elisa with cerebral palsy:

“Every day we try to provide enough joy and enrichment to Elisa’s life, knowing that her life might be shorter than most children. The additional worry over escalating energy costs, running expensive medical equipment to sustain her life and health and surviving on a low income distracts us from Elisa’s quality of life”.

Nearly all carers who are struggling to make ends meet (93%) agreed that the increase in the cost of living is having a negative impact on their mental and/or physical health.

Those providing many hours of unpaid care are especially vulnerable to rising costs because their ability to earn an income is limited. There are some costs carers cannot cut back on, such as heating and medical equipment, without affecting the safety of the person they care for.

On top of this, carers are having to fund from their own pocket the increasing prices of care services, equipment and products for the person they care for, with previous research showing more than two thirds (68%) of carers use their own income or savings to cover these costs.[1]

Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said:

“The idea that carers can somehow manage on such low incomes, or will work their way out of benefits, is highly disparaging when they already provide round-the-clock care and there is a perpetual shortage of care services to help them.

“Not being able to heat their homes or put sufficient food on the table risks the health of thousands of older and disabled people and carers themselves. By not acting, the Government is storing up serious problems for the NHS and social care system in the medium and longer term.

“The lack of help from the Government is pushing carers who were already struggling further into poverty and they see no way of getting out. The Prime Minister must act immediately to ensure the livelihoods of carers across the country.”

The charity is urging the Prime Minister - at an absolute minimum - to uprate all carer benefits in line with inflation so that carers have a better chance of managing in the short term.

Carers UK also wants to see carers with an entitlement to Carer’s Allowance given a top up payment to support them through a difficult winter. It is calling for the earnings limit for Carer’s Allowance to be raised to 21 hours work a week at the National Living Wage rate, so that carers who want to work more hours can do so without losing the support.


Read the full report: Heading for Crisis: caught between caring and rising costs


[1]State of Caring report 2019, Carers UK

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