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The State of Caring 2013

Caring is becoming part of life for more and more of us, as our ageing population and the fact that people are living longer with disability and ill-health, brings changes to family life. The 2011 Census showed that more people than ever are taking on caring responsibilities, with the number of those people providing round the clock care rising the fastest.

Our survey of carers looked at a wide range of issues affecting carers and their experiences to build a picture of the current state of caring, reflecting wider social, economic and political trends and circumstances over the last year and looking ahead to the impact of new policy and legislation.

As funding for social care has failed to keep pace with rising need, reduced local authority budgets have seen care and support services further stretched, and families stepping in to meet the growing demand for support. At the same time, carers are finding it harder to access services - a third (31%) of those we surveyed that care for 35 hours or more each week are receiving no practical support.

For families, this can lead to financial hardship, isolation and poor health, and YouGov polling commissioned by Carers UK has suggested that 2.3 million adults have given up work to care for an elderly parent, disabled or seriously ill loved ones . The difficulty of juggling work and care came out clearly in our survey: nearly two thirds (65%) of carers in work have used annual leave to care while nearly half (47%) have done overtime to make up for taking time off to care.

The last year has seen the start of major changes for carers. Carers and disabled people across the UK are starting to see the impact of the Welfare Reform Act 2012. Changes to financial support with housing and council tax in some areas mean many families experiencing reduced financial support from more than one of the changes. The economic downturn, a squeeze on wages and the increasing costs of essentials like food and fuel are all making it more difficult for carers to manage; more than four in ten (44%) of carers responding to our survey told us that they had been in debt as a result of caring.