The state of caring in Scotland

It was Carers’ Rights Day on 24 November.  A national focal point to highlight the situation of Scotland’s 759,000 unpaid carers.

Earlier last month, Carers Scotland released a report on the Scottish results of their recent UK-wide survey, State of Caring. This gives a comprehensive, and often shocking, insight into the lives of Scotland’s carers.

Over a third haven’t had a day off in the last year. One in three haven’t had a holiday away from home or a weekend away in the last five years.

It’s well documented that caring can have a significant impact on health. Unsurprisingly then, two-thirds of Scottish carers said their physical health had worsened and three-quarters said they’d suffered stress, anxiety or depression. 

Nine out of ten carers admit to struggling financially, with a quarter in debt as a result of caring, and many cutting back on food and heating to make ends meet.

It’s hard to square this with a figure from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre which estimates that £190 million in Carer’s Allowance has not been claimed by those entitled to it.

It’s distressing to think so many carers are clearly not accessing what little funding is available to them. A lot of it has to do with how people see their role and whether they recognise themselves as a carer. We often hear people say “I don’t think of myself like that. I’m just looking after my husband.” This can be exacerbated by carers not having time to research what help they might be entitled to.

A chink of light at the end of this dark tunnel is that from summer 2018, the Scottish Government will increase Carers Allowance to the same level as Jobseekers Allowance. Yet with a significant number of carers providing over 90 hours of care a week, this amounts to less than £1 an hour.

At Leuchie House, we continue to support carers in every way we can, including offering free breaks to carers accompanying their loved one to Leuchie in January and February 2018. If you know anyone who could benefit from this, please spread the word. It could be the first break they’ve had in years.

Mairi O'Keefe, Chief Executive, Leuchie House. Published in The East Lothian Courier, 6 December 2017.