Skip to main content

Missing out: The identification challenge

For many people, looking after an ill, older or disabled loved one doesn’t have a name, it is ‘just something you do’. However, not recognising you are carrying out a caring role can be a real barrier to accessing vital support.

If you do not see yourself as a carer, then you are unlikely to consider asking for a carer’s assessment, applying for Carer’s Allowance, or seeking advice from others who find themselves in similar circumstances. Not recognising you are caring means missing out on help, advice and information, with serious personal and financial implications.

Based on findings from Carers UK’s State of Caring Survey 2016, examining the experiences of over 5,682 current carers – this research explores the time it takes
for people to recognise they have taken on a caring role, and whether they had missed out on support because they simply didn’t think of themselves as a carer. The
research also looks at the impact that missing out on support can have across carers’ lives.

The findings are stark. They demonstrate that the majority of carers take years to recognise their role, missing out on crucial financial, practical and emotional support in the meantime. This research demonstrates that, by not receiving support at an early stage, the negative impacts of caring are intensified with many carers missing out on benefits and entitlements and others forced to give up work altogether. On a personal level, a lack of practical help can have a huge impact on health and wellbeing, from long-term physical health effects such as back pain, to mental ill health and social isolation and as a result of caring without a supportive network.

The longer it takes to identify as a carer the more likely it is that carers will struggle without the support and advice they need. Frontline professionals, such as GPs, social workers and pharmacists play a central role in ensuring carers are identified and then guided to support as early as possible in their caring journey. Under the Care Act 2014, local authorities and health bodies in England must work together to identify carers and any carer who appears, or is likely to have, needs for support must be identified and offered a Carer’s Assessment. The Social Services & Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 and the Community Care & Health (Scotland) Act 2002  nclude similar measures to ensure carers are identified and guided to support. In Northern Ireland, the Carers and Direct Payments (NI) Act 2002 states that Health and Social Care Trusts must work to identify carers.

The good news is that in some areas the time taken for people to identify their caring role has shortened in the last 10 years. This means that awareness and identification work is having an impact, but evidence from carers demonstrates there is still much more to be done.