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Unpaid carers spiralling into poverty as the cost-of-living crisis bites: cutting back on food and heating to make ends meet

by Fiona Collie 18 October 2022
  • Over a third (35%) of carers are spending 20% of their income or more on energy
  • One in five (19%) of carers in lowest income households[1] are spending 50% or more of their income on energy
  • A quarter of carers cutting back on food and heat to make ends meet
  • Cutting back on essentials is putting the health of carers and the older and disabled people they support at risk
  • Carers Scotland urges the Scottish and UK Governments to do more to prevent carers falling further into poverty and ill health

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

A survey by the charity of more than 2,000 unpaid carers in Scotland found that one in four (26%) carers are struggling to make ends meet, with nearly a quarter (24%) cutting back on essentials like food and heating. Nearly 1 in 6 carers (15%) said they were in debt because of caring. 

 “I sold my jewelry to pay for the oil tank this year.”  [Carer, State of Caring 2022]

Those on the lowest incomes[1] are struggling the most. With one in five (19%) low-income carers facing energy bills taking up 50% or more of their limited incomes, more than half (54%) have no choice but to cut back on essentials such as food and heat, rely on food banks (11.5%) and fall into arrears with utilities (17%) and rent or mortgages (8%).

“We are on the verge of losing our home. Our home will be repossessed as my husband, our only source of income has lost his job. Our home is adapted for our severely disabled son and I am ill with worry thinking of the accommodation we could possibly be housed in.”   [Carer, State of Caring 2022]

 There are some costs carers simply cannot cut back on, such as heating and medical equipment, without affecting the health and the safety of the person they care for.

“Very worried about gas and electricity. Adult child is ventilated overnight, we also charge an electric chair every night and hoisting requires to be permanently plugged in. How can we possibly cut back on any of these things? Also, very worried about electricity blackouts when the equipment required is lifesaving.”   [Carer, State of Caring 2022]

Cost of living worries are affecting the health of carers with nearly two thirds (64%) reporting a negative impact on their health. 

“It is a big worry as i have no idea how I am going to manage the food and energy increases that are occurring and getting worse so I cannot plan and it is affecting my mental health which is already fragile.”    [Carer, State of Caring 2022]

 Carers Scotland’s Director, Richard Meade said:

“Carers Scotland is deeply worried about the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on unpaid carers.  Carers in “State of Caring 2022” told us they’re facing impossible choices – to heat or to eat, to borrow or fall into arrears and debt– with little hope of increased incomes because the demands of their caring role make paid work or extra hours an impossibility. 

“Scotland’s 800,000 carers provide £10.9 billion worth of care every single year.  Without them health and social care services would collapse.  Yet there has been insufficient recognition of this in helping to meet the extra costs they face. 

“Without help, carers health, wellbeing and financial security will continue to deteriorate, especially over winter.  Carers need urgent action from both Governments now.”

Carers Scotland is urging action by both UK and Scottish Governments to uprate benefits in line with inflation and provide top up payments to carers to help support them through this difficult winter. 

The charity has also made wide ranging recommendations to the Scottish Government including to introduce dedicated help with energy costs for households with a severely disabled person.  At a minimum this should include identifying those people with the highest costs related to their conditions eg. hospital and hospice at home services, home oxygen, electric hoists and beds etc. and develop a financial support scheme to cover these additional costs. 

The full recommendations and analysis can be read in “State of Caring in Scotland 2022

A cost-of-living crisis for unpaid carers in Scotland” can be found by clicking here

October 2022

 [1] In receipt of Carers Allowance and/or with a gross household income of £1,000 per month or less

 - ENDS -

  

Notes to Editors

1. About this research

This data comes from the State of Caring Survey which received responses from over 2000 unpaid carers in Scotland (13,000 unpaid carers across the UK). The survey was conducted between 12 July and 11 September 2022.

  • Number of carers in Scotland: 800,000 and in the UK: 10.6 million
  • The main benefit for carers is Carer’s Allowance which is valued at £69.70 per week for a minimum 35 hours per week, £3,624 per year, and has an earnings limit of £132 per week in 2022/23. Carer’s Allowance was £55.55 per week with a £100 earnings limit in April 2011.[i]
  • In Scotland, carers in receipt of Carer’s Allowance can also receive a Carer’s Allowance Supplement of £245.70 every 6 months.
  • Number of carers with an entitlement to Carer’s Allowance in 2022: 1,319,718 (407,523 men and 912,198 women) across Great Britain.[ii]
  • Number of carers in receipt of Carer’s Allowance in 2022: 977,506 across the UK.[iii]
  • Number of carers in receipt of Carer Element of UC: 451,714 in May 2022, rising from 262,279 in May 2020 across Great Britain.

2. Media contacts

  • Fiona Collie, Head of Policy & Public Affairs 07967826238 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Richard Meade, Director 07368970219 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 

 [i] The Department for Work and Pensions - Social Security Benefit Up-rating, 2010/11 https://revenuebenefits.org.uk/pdf/DWP_HMRC_Benefit_rates_2010_11_12.pdf
[ii] Data from February 2022. X-Stat Explore tool from Department for Work and Pensions, available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/dwp-benefit-statistics-dissemination-tools
[iii] 928,966 (251,376 men and 677,588 women) across Great Britain from X-Stat Explore (retrieved in Feb 2022) and 48,540 from Northern Ireland (Carers Allowance summary statistics - May 2022. Available at: https://www.communities-ni.gov.uk/publications/benefits-statistics-summary-publication-national-statistics-may-2022.)
[1] With a gross household income of £1,000 per month or less
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