Cuts in social services and benefits are threatening carers across Manchester at a time when their responsibilities have never been bigger, according to campaigners.
‘Getting help in tough times’ was the theme of Carers Rights Day 2012, which took place across the country on Friday.
The day, organised by Carers UK, is designed to ensure that carers know their rights and are aware of all the financial, practical and emotional support available to them.
Every year more than two million people become carers, but even those who have been caring for years are often unaware of their rights and entitlements, and it’s estimated that millions of carers’ benefits go unclaimed each year.
In the current financial climate, with social service budgets being cut and living costs rising, families affected by illness and disability are being hit hard, and Carers UK say carers need to know their rights to protect themselves.
Steve McIntosh, Policy and Public Affairs Manager for Carers UK, told MM: “Many families are really anxious about what the future holds for them.
“Some local councils with incredibly tight budgets are making cuts to social care services, and also reducing the services for older or disabled people, or increasing charges for those services.
“So families are really worried about the double pressure of losing practical support and financial support over the next few years.
“Carers UK are campaigning to make sure carers are protected from further cuts, but that is why it is incredibly important that carers make sure they are getting every single bit of support that they are entitled to.”
Manchester Carers Forum provides a collective voice for carers in the city, working with Manchester City Council and the NHS to give a direct insight into where services are required.
Nat O’Brien, Project Development Officer at the forum, said one of the biggest issues is that people don’t officially recognise themselves as carers, and when they do, they don’t know what support is available.
He told MM: “Identification of carers is often the most difficult thing, people just see themselves as someone who looks after a loved one.
“One of the things we provide is peer support groups for other carers to access emotional support and advice when they don’t know where to turn to. Other carers have been there, done that, and know what they did in that situation to resolve it.”
The group also provide a course called ‘Boost’, aimed at improving carers emotional resilience in order to cope with the pressures of caring, and have recently launched their ‘Caring & Cosy’ project designed to help carers reduce their energy bills.
However, Mr O’Brien is worried that the scale of the projects the forum run could fall victim to further financial constraints, at a time when they are needed more than ever.
He said: “If you consider that social care budgets have been cut, and the amount of money for the people who carers actually care for in the first place has been lessened, then it follows a logic that carers are doing more than ever before.
“The need for organisations like ourselves to be there to provide the emotional support and advice on where to turn to is essential.
“But we fear that there will be further cuts that will affect our ability to provide the services that we do currently, which are massively reduced from four years ago anyway.”
There are now 6.4million people in the UK caring for an older or disabled loved one. Their role saves the NHS an estimated £119billion annual care bill, but Carers UK find that despite the importance of their role, carers still face ignorance, isolation and financial pressures.
Mr McIntosh said: “There is absolutely no doubt to the huge value of what carers provide.
“There is a wider cost to society if we don’t support these families. If families don’t get help, they will reach breaking point, and if they are no longer able to provide care it will cost social services and the NHS far more in the long term.”