The vast majority of unpaid carers are providing increased care for their loved ones and worry about them getting sick
Three quarters of unpaid carers in Scotland are having to provide more care for their loved ones during the coronavirus outbreak.
A study by Carers Scotland has found 78% of unpaid carers are giving increased care to the people they help.
Almost half (39%) of them are providing more care because their local care and support services have been reduced or closed. Nearly a quarter (23%) are providing more care because they are worried about paid care staff having contact with the person they care for.
A survey by Carers Scotland of 890 unpaid carers in Scotland showed that, on average, carers are picking up an additional 10 hours of unpaid care per week, helping loved ones with personal care, practical tasks and emotional support.
Reduced care and support services, and paid care workers isolating or without personal protective equipment (PPE), mean many carers in Scotland have no choice but to care round the clock for loved ones with complex health conditions and disabilities - without any hope of a break.
More than half (53%) of carers told the charity they feel overwhelmed managing their caring responsibilities during the outbreak and are worried about burning out in the coming weeks.
And 87% of carers in Scotland said they are worried about what will happen to the people they care for if they have to self-isolate or become ill.
Simon Hodgson, director of Carers Scotland, said: “Unpaid carers are vital in the national effort to keep vulnerable people safe during the coronavirus outbreak yet many fear that continuing to care around the clock will lead to them burning out.
“Many are overwhelmed and incredibly anxious about how they will manage in the weeks ahead.
Before coronavirus, social care services were already in short supply and those families with support met a high threshold to get any form of care. Now, some of those services have disappeared and unpaid carers are having to cope alone.
Carers Scotland is calling on both the Scottish and UK Governments to acknowledge the huge efforts of unpaid carers protecting vulnerable people during this epidemic. Carers desperately want paid care staff to have better access to testing and personal protective equipment, as well as wanting access themselves, so they can keep the people they care for safe.
The new research shows 79% of carers in Scotland are having to spend more money during the outbreak. The top increases in expenditure include spending more on food (70%) – due to lack of supermarket delivery slots and need for specialist food - and household bills (53%).
The charity is urging the Scottish Government to increase Carer’s Allowance – the main benefit for people caring unpaid for 35 hours or more each week - to recognise the crucial role they are playing in the country’s fight back against coronavirus. In Scotland, carers receive a Carer’s Allowance Supplement twice a year which increases Carer’s Allowance by £460.30 each year but more is needed to recognise the contribution of carers and the increased costs they are facing.
Hodgson added: “Both the Scottish and UK Governments must acknowledge the huge efforts of Scotland’s 700,000 unpaid carers during this pandemic and provide the support unpaid carers so desperately need
“The Scottish Government must ensure that the impact of reduced services on carers and their families are closely monitored in terms of carers’ health and well-being and ability to care, to avoid burn-out. Support must be reinstated and restored as soon as possible.
“Financial support is also vital and as well seeking an increase in Carer’s Allowance, we want the Scottish Government to establish a Carer Wellbeing Fund equivalent to the Student Fund of £5M. This could be provided directly to carers centres and young carers services to enable them to help carers facing financial hardship as a consequence of Covid-19.”
“We absolutely value the support provided by Scotland’s unpaid carers and are working with partner organisations to ensure carers have the advice they need to help protect themselves and their loved ones," said a spokesperson for the Scottish Government.
“We have asked NHS National Services Scotland to provide PPE stock to unpaid carers, as well as the regulated social care sector, during this emergency period. The hubs that have been set up in local communities will be providing PPE for unpaid carers that need it from next week.
“As most local carer services are unable to provide face to face support at present, the Scottish Government has established a £500,000 fund to help these organisations adapt to supporting carers remotely, and most are now offering alternatives such as telephone counselling and online sessions.
“We are working hard to ensure coronavirus does not stop carers accessing the benefits support they deserve and have made emergency changes to the Carer’s Allowance Regulations, for example, carers who cannot be in the physical presence of the person they care for can still receive the benefit.
“We also understand that carers may be under additional emotional pressure at the moment. The Mental Health Minister has announced a further £3.8 million to increase the capacity of NHS 24’s telephone and online services, while a dedicated page on mental health support has been added to the NHS Inform website.
“Our new mental health and wellbeing campaign Clear Your Head launched this week also provides practical advice on looking after mental wellbeing during the outbreak and coping with the current restrictions.”