What Matters Most to unpaid carers –Portsmouth carers struggling to care for loved ones during the pandemic
Many people became unpaid carers overnight when lockdown was imposed, increasing their responsibilities to look after older, disabled or seriously ill loved ones and relatives instantly.
In May 2020, Healthwatch Portsmouth worked in partnership with three local Healthwatch organisations (Hampshire, Southampton, and the Isle of Wight) to find out if people had been able to access the information, services and support they needed during the Covid-19 pandemic. The survey ran until July 2020 and collected people’s experiences of using health and social care services.
The responses we received about social care services, highlighted that there was a lack of support for those who were caring for adults or children. These comments indicated that unpaid Carers, felt ‘abandoned’ and ‘left to get on with it’. The sample size for this part of the survey was small, so we decided to undertake further work to uncover the challenges that unpaid Carers faced during the pandemic.
We asked Carers:
- What has helped or been useful to you during this time?
- What would you like to see changed or would help you in the future?
- What is your experience of being an unpaid carer during the current Covid-19 pandemic?
Carers were able to tell us their views anonymously via an online survey, email, telephone or by letter. The survey was also promoted by a range of stakeholders such as local councils, Carers organisations including the Carers Centre, voluntary sector organisations, Portsmouth University, further education colleges and NHS trusts.
The project was launched on the 16th November 2020 and we produced a mid-December interim report and planned a final report by February 2021. Since the survey launched, we have had 108 responses from people who have identified themselves as unpaid Carers living in Portsmouth (postcodes PO1-PO6).
The Challenges Facing Unpaid Carers
- 90% of respondents said that they were not able to access Adult Day/Respite Services
- 71% of respondents stated that their caring duties have increased during the Covid-19 pandemic.
- 59% of unpaid Carers identified that they were not able to have a break from their caring responsibilities during the pandemic.
The Impact On Carers
Family life and relationships – being a carer has put people’s relationships under strain and been disruptive to their family life.
Mental health – Carers’ mental health has deteriorated during the pandemic. Survey responses state people feeling isolated, frustrated, sad, alone, worried, bored, trapped, and afraid for the future.
Employment – Carers spoke about struggling to fit work around the demands of caring and their family life.
Financial pressures – Carers highlighted the additional financial pressure they have faced. An example of this includes reduced working hours due to full-time caring.
Physical Health – Carers have stated that caring during the pandemic has had a negative impact on their physical health. They have said it has been harder to get out of the house to exercise due to the risk of leaving the person they are caring for alone.
Healthwatch Portsmouth Recommendations
We have put together our recommendations which we will discuss with partners and key stakeholders to help ensure the voices of Carers are heard, to understand what has been helpful and what they need from services they rely upon. You can see our 10 recommendations here.
To find out what support is available to you as an unpaid carer you can contact a member of the team at the Portsmouth Carers Centre in Portsmouth which is taking calls and responding to emails during the pandemic.
If you would like to learn how Portsmouth City Council is trying to raise the public’s awareness of what unpaid carers do and how they can offer support to that person you can access this free e-learning course on carer awareness by clicking here.
Vaccinating unpaid carers
If you look after someone older or clinically vulnerable who couldn’t cope without your help you could be eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine as one of the next priority groups. We’re waiting to find out more details from government about how they’re defining people in this group. But if you receive carers allowance or you’re already registered with your GP as an unpaid carer then you will receive an invite to book a vaccination appointment. You don’t need to do anything now.
If you don’t receive this allowance or your GP doesn’t know that you have this role, then you can contact the Portsmouth carers centre to let them know via email or by calling 023 9285 1864 if you can’t get online. They will be able to advise you on next steps once more information has been made available. We’ll also share further details on this once we have them.