The economic downturn has left thousands of carers facing a “personal financial crisis”, with many struggling to pay for food, heating and home repairs, Carers UK said today.
A report by the charity found rising inflation had made 2008 “one of the hardest years [carers] have known”.
Half of the 1,700 carers interviewed said they were in debt, compared with one-third in a similar poll 12 months ago.
Half forced to cut back on food spending
Three-quarters were struggling to pay for gas and electricity, up from 33% in 2007, and those forced to cut back on food spending rose from 19% to 52%.
Three-quarters said they could no longer afford essential maintenance to their homes, compared with only one-third last year.
The charity also found that nearly one-third were struggling with rent or mortgage payments. The same proportion of those owing money had debts worth more than £10,000.
Benefit ‘appallingly low’
Imelda Redmond, chief executive of Carers UK, said “the appallingly low level” of the carer’s allowance, worth £50.55 a week, had contributed to the crisis.
The report said many carers of disabled people faced higher fuel costs than other groups, for instance from running the washing machine more often.
Redmond said these costs, combined with a lack of “opportunities to increase their income through employment, [makes] it even harder to manage financially when rising prices bite”.
Financial boost urged
The charity repeated its call for a review of financial support for carers, urging the government to provide people who care for 35 hours or more a week with at least £90.70, the value of the state pension.
The recommendations echo proposals by MPs on the work and pensions select committee, who issued a wide-ranging report on carers in August.
The government did not include changes to benefits in its national carers strategy, published in June, but promised to review them in 2011, a delay much criticised by Carers UK and other campaigners.
The Department for Work and Pensions is expected to respond to the MPs’ proposals this month.
Carers Rights Day
The report comes ahead of tomorrow’s Carers Rights Day, which the charity organises every year to raise awareness of carers’ entitlements and needs.
Expert guide to carers