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Report reveals carers at breaking point

PUBLISHED: 07:16 08 June 2009 | UPDATED: 10:01 06 July 2010

Carers who devote their lives to looking after a loved one are suffering breakdowns and in some cases attempting suicide as they struggle to cope with the unbearable strain of their role, a study has found.

Carers who devote their lives to looking after a loved one are suffering breakdowns and in some cases attempting suicide as they struggle to cope with the unbearable strain of their role, a study has found.

Statistics released today show that two-thirds of people who provide unpaid care in East Anglia have reached breaking point due to the emotional strain, money worries and bureaucratic red tape.

The study, carried out by the MS Society and Carers Week, found carers are under such extreme levels of stress and depression that they are suffering breakdowns and, in some cases, even attempting suicide.

It questioned 154 people caring for a child, parent or partner who is ill, frail or disabled and found that most are in dire need of practical help and someone to talk to.

The most common cause of carers reaching breaking point, cited by well over a third (43pc) of respondents, was "frustration and bureaucracy". The frustration often stems from the complex and lengthy procedures for welfare benefits, healthcare and social services - systems which are actually intended to support carers and those they care for.

Other factors are financial worries, the deterioration of the person they are caring for and lack of sleep.

When asked what would or what did help them, most carers said "practical support" and "just having someone to talk to".

More than a third (38pc) of carers said that more money would make a difference. The main benefit for carers, Carers Allowance, is the lowest of its kind at just £53.10 per week, and the equivalent of earning £1.34 per hour.

The importance of a break was also highlighted, as almost two-thirds (60pc) of carers had not had some time out for over a year and, of these, over a third (36pc) had never had a break since they had started caring.

Nearly half of all carers who took part in the survey stated that having a break would have or did help

them when they were at breaking point.

Carers Week, which begins today, is a partnership of 10 national charities which campaign for greater recognition and support for the UK's six million carers, and celebrate the contribution they make to society - which saves the economy £87billion a year.

England and World Cup hero, Geoff Hurst, has cared for his wife, Judith, and is supporting the work of Carers Week.

"Those who care for family and friends mostly do so under the radar, without pay or acknowledgement, and deserve to be recognised for their dedication to the people they care for, not just during Carers Week but for all the weeks of the year.

"Carers face physical and mental challenges every day and should be more visibly supported and appreciated for the generous and loving hard work they do."

Carers Week runs until June 14 and is organised by Carers UK, Counsel and Care, Crossroads Caring for Carers, Help the Hospices, Macmillan Cancer Support, MS Society, Parkinson's Disease Society, The Princess Royal Trust for Carers, Vitalise and WRVS.

The EDP We Care Appeal aims to help Norfolk's unpaid carers with financial and practical support, either individually or through carers groups.

There are an estimated 110,000 carers (one in seven of the population) in Norfolk. It is estimated that there are between 250 and 600 child carers in the county, their role being carried out before and after school.

For more information, and to make a donation, visit www.wecare

appeal.co.uk or contact Norfolk Millennium Trust for Carers, 1 Park Farm Barn, Wolterton, Norfolk NR11 7LX; telephone 01263 768339 or email info@norfolkcarerstrust.org.

Carers needing support and advice can find out about local organisations and learn what is happening in their area during Carers Week by visiting www.carersweek.org or calling 0845 241 2582.

cOMMENT - Page 18

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