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1 in 3 unpaid carers never get a break: stark shortage of respite revealed

Research commissioned by National Accident Helpline discovers the plight of the nation's 'Accidental Carers'.

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22 September 2015 / by National Accident Helpline Communications / legal-and-consumer-news

•    Research uncovers 73% of unpaid carers only have one week or less holiday a year
•    1 in 3 never have an evening off and a further 1 in 3 never have a weekend off from their caring role
•    1 in 3 have not taken a break because they felt too guilty
•    44% feel stressed or anxious about their own health 

New research has lifted the lid on the reality of life as an unpaid carer in the UK. The study, carried out by Research Now on behalf of National Accident Helpline reveals a substantial gap between the respite that unpaid carers need and are entitled to, versus the breaks they actually get. The health of the UK’s 5.8 million unpaid carers is at risk due to a lack of adequate rest. There are many barriers in their way, including feelings of guilt.

The national poll questioned 1,000 unpaid carers in the UK, including those caring for a loved one involved in an accident. The independent study aims to understand the impact of looking after someone – specifically how supported carers feel by friends and family and how much time they have to relax, undertake hobbies or take a break.

With a summer break still in recent memory for many Britons, the research shows that most unpaid carers will not have had time off from their role. The vast majority (73%) of those polled have on average no more than one week’s holiday a year, with 1 in 3 (35%) never having an evening off from their caring duties, and 1 in 3 (34%) never getting a weekend break. Only 6% of carers are able to take more than 3 weeks’ holiday – a stark contrast to the average 25 days’ holiday Britons are given.

Why so few carers take the breaks they need:

•    Feelings of guilt have held many back, with 35% stating that they have not taken a break when they wanted one because they felt too guilty
•    Over 1 in 4 (28%) stated that they could not afford to take a break 
•    A quarter (25%) highlighted that they would only like to go away with the person they care for
•    1 in 5 (23%) pointed to the difficulty of arranging cover as a major barrier 

Why a break for those in a caring role is so important:

•    1 in 3 (34%) said they didn’t want to make a fuss about themselves
•    44% confess they are anxious about their own health 
•    More than half (55%) admit to feeling frustrated in relation to their caring role 
•    36% say a break would enable them to catch up on their sleep 
•    Only 24% feel supported by their family with their caring responsibilities and only 13% feel supported by their friends.

Russell Atkinson, CEO of National Accident Helpline, said:

“Our research helps to draw people’s attention to the full impact an unexpected injury can have on an individual and those they love, as severe accidents can mean people suddenly find themselves needing to provide full-time care.

“Stepping up to the plate as a carer can be as tough as it is rewarding, and for that reason we want to emphasise the need for the right support for carers to get their essential respite. For their own health – and for the person they care for.”

In response to its findings, National Accident Helpline is launching the British Caregiver Award to raise awareness of unpaid carers, their invaluable support for the people they care for and, crucially, the effect that this caring has on their lives.

The British Caregiver Award aims to raise awareness of the plight carers face, specifically those who look after an individual who has been injured in an accident.

•    The Award will enable a carer and the individual they look after to take a holiday away together with the charity Revitalise, which specialises in holidays for disabled people and their carers;
•    The judging panel will comprise executives at National Accident Helpline and senior figures from care-related charities including Revitalise;
•    The selected carer will be announced in early 2016.

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