Carers Scotland published new research on Carers Rights Day 2023, called “State of Caring 2023: A health and social care crisis for unpaid carers in Scotland”. The report focuses on health of carers and support from social care and the NHS and highlights the ongoing and significant struggle that carers face in accessing the services and support they need to provide care and to look after their own health and wellbeing, including to take regular breaks from caring.
The report found that over a quarter of carers (28%) said that their mental health was bad or very bad, rising to 37% for those in receipt of Carer’s Allowance, reflecting evidence that those on low incomes are struggling more. Alongside this, the majority of respondents were experiencing continuous low mood, feelings of hopelessness and regularly feeling tearful.
Shockingly, over a third of carers (36%) said that they had thoughts of suicide or self-harm.
Carers also reported significant challenges with their physical health, with over half (54%) saying that their physical health had suffered because of their caring role and one in 5suffering a physical injury from caring.
With these significant findings of poor physical and mental health, concerningly, four in 10 (41%) carers have put off healthcare treatment because of their caring role telling Carers Scotland that they simply do not have the time, or cannot secure replacement care, to enable them to seek treatment or recover.
The majority of carers told us they experienced loneliness -over a quarter (29%) always or often felt lonely, with a further 59% sometimes feeling lonely. Carers who were struggling to make ends meet were almost twice as likely (50%) to say they were always or often lonely and half of all carers(49%) said loneliness was affecting their health – evidence that carers’ financial wellbeing, loneliness and poor health are closely linked.
The report also found large gaps in the support that carers needs – both to support their caring role and to maintain their own health. A third of carers(35%) have not had any break from caring in the past year with many carers reporting this having a detrimental impact on their mental health. More than half (58%) said that getting a break was critical to improving their health and wellbeing. Just a third (38%) of carers said that they or the person they care for were receiving any support from formal social care services and, of those, a third (37%) said that it did not meet their needs or those of the person they care for and a similar proportion (30%) that this care was not consistent.
Of particular concern, is the lack of involvement and support on hospital discharge. Six in 10 (60%) were not involved in decisions about the person they care for being discharged from hospital, with only 18% saying that the services provided on discharge were sufficient to protect the health and wellbeing of the person they cared for as well as their own health.