Does work really work for the Carers?

According to research from Carers UK, one in eight adults are Carers, with another 6,000 people taking on caring responsibilities each day – that equates to over two million people each year!

The reasons why people take on caring responsibilities vary but the benefits of avoiding costly residential home fees and being able to provide personalised and familiar support to family and friends are clear.

This week (7 – 13 June 2021) is Carers Week and this year’s theme is to Make Caring Visible and Valued. Statistics show that five million people in the UK are juggling caring responsibilities with work – that’s one in seven of the workforce, so this article focuses on the ways in which your workforce may be impacted as a result of their responsibilities and how this may impact on their work.

  • Psychological and physical impacts
    A survey by Carers UK shows that 83% of respondents reported a negative impact on their physical health and 87% on their mental health. Of these responses the health conditions reported were: 91% anxiety and stress, 53% depression, 36% injury – such as back pain, 22% high blood pressure and 26% deterioration of a pre-existing health condition. Other research showed that Carers often reported feeling overlooked and overwhelmed with a lack of support or understanding of their situations. They also noticed that a change in their lifestyles meant that they had less time for themselves and less time to focus on their health. All of which are contributing factors to poor health and wellbeing.
  • Social isolation

Through Carer UK’s research, more than eight in ten surveyed unpaid Carers described themselves as lonely or socially isolated due to their caring responsibilities. Some of the contributing factors identified were:

    1. A lack of respite from caring
    2. A lack of understanding from society or work
    3. A lack of support
    4. Lack of time or money to partake in leisure, social and educational activities.

It is well reported that social isolation is a key contributor to poor mental health.

  • Changes in roles

84% of Carers say they never expected to become a Carer, which indicates that this is often a role which is placed on people, and often at short notice. A new Carer will need to take responsibility for a whole range of functions they may never have considered before: medication, medical appointments, services to engage with as well as providing personalised support. These are highly stressful situations and can often lead to Carers neglecting their own health and wellbeing.

  • Changes in relationships
    When people begin looking after someone, their relationships with them can change significantly. Initially they might notice their bond strengthening as they spend more time with them and get to know them better, but they can also become strained, or resentment can begin to build around the responsibilities placed on the Carer. Caring for someone with a brain injury or a terminal illness can be particularly difficult and distressing, particularly if the illness or injury impacts on their personality or memory recall.

The Carer’s relationships with other family, friends or work colleagues can also alter, leading to feelings of isolation and lack of understanding and support.

  • Impacts on work
    37% of Carers reported having to give up work due to the impact of their caring responsibilities on their work life, which can also have a greater impact further down the line when they’re looking at moving back into employment. Even more surprisingly, whilst 50% of Carers reported being stressed at work, concerns around how their caring role will be viewed by employers and colleagues, prevented them from discussing it, with 1 in 10 choosing not to disclose their caring responsibilities to the line managers at all.

So whilst we recognise that caring for someone can be highly rewarding, it is important to seriously consider the other elements of the role which can negatively impact on their health, work and social life and to identify if, as employers, we are doing enough to recognise and support the Carers in our workforce.


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