Speaking up for local Unpaid Carers
From travel to shopping, it all adds up! For one particular group, unpaid carers, the rising cost-of-living can make life even more challenging as many unpaid carers already juggle work or study with caring responsibilities, many unpaid carers have seen their already reduced income fall as a result of caring over time and many already do without themselves.
Concerned about the impact of the rising cost-of-living, Argyll and Bute Citizens Advice Bureau invited unpaid carers to share their views and experiences on how they are coping with the rising cost-of-living. Over 70 unpaid carers throughout Argyll and Bute kindly gave their time to share their experiences knowing that their local CAB, as a member of Citizens Advice Scotland would use its position and voice to try to influence positive change on their behalf, locally through the Health and Social Care Partnership and with the Scottish Government.
Early findings amongst unpaid carers showed:
- 85% say they have changed their work or study patterns to fit around their unpaid caring responsibilities.
- 52% told us they stayed in their current job because it fits around unpaid caring responsibilities.
- 42% accepted low paid work to fit around unpaid caring responsibilities.
- 28% said they were struggling financially, regularly waiting for pay-day, pension or benefits being paid.
- 20% shared that they had sold personal possessions, cashed in savings or pensions to help cover the rising cost of living.
- Asked how they would cover an unexpected expense, with the fridge breaking down given as an example, 36% of unpaid carers said that they would have to borrow money from a friend, use a credit card and pay back the money over time or, try to buy it on an interest free loan. Worryingly 8% shared that their credit score wasn’t good so they would have to find a loan, even at a high rate of interest.
A further 25% said they would hold off with the purchase, cut back on other expenditure to save up. This gives a real sense of the challenges and steps unpaid carers will take.
- When it came to housing, 22% shared that they were worried about being able to afford to keep paying their rent or mortgage.
- Asked about their wellbeing and support, many shared the challenges accessing carers centres given their locality, particularly those living on Argyll and Bute’s islands.
Jen Broadhurst, Argyll and Bute’s CB manager, said,
“Following a rise in approaches from carers worried about the crisis in the cost of living, we commissioned research to deepen our understanding of the issues this group of people are facing, and reached out to anyone who currently cares for someone, be that a child, partner, friend or other family member. We also invited people who have previously cared for someone, as well as those who are likely to find themselves caring in the future to share their views too.
We were delighted that so many people made the time to get involved in what was a very detailed survey sharing insight into their circumstances; on how caring impacted on them perhaps through work or study, how they viewed the support available to them and what they felt would help them to continue with the important role they carry out providing unpaid care.
Every day the Bureau advises people on money and debt, but all too often it is only when things get really on top of them. Asking unpaid carers how they are managing during this cost-of-living crisis helps to shed light on some of challenges faced and throughout the survey details of help and support was shared.
We want to thank everyone who participated and let them know that the Bureau will carefully review all of the information shared in confidence. Everything shared will be anonymised and a report will highlight the issues unpaid carers are tackling. We also asked if any carers would be willing to participate in focus groups and telephone interviews. A number of carers said yes, so we will be in touch over the coming weeks. Then we will focus on the overall findings. Any recommendations will be made in consultation with local carers centres and colleagues in Citizens Advice Scotland. The final report will be shared with local elected members, with the Health and Social Care Partnership and with the Scottish Government.
With Social Security Scotland working on the Scottish benefit replacement to Carers Allowance, the timing of this work is right. Just as Argyll and Bute Carers’ Strategy says, ‘the support and care provided by Carers has never been more extensive and more essential’. Argyll and Bute CAB recognises the incredible work local unpaid carers do and we will do all that we can to support them”.
Further engagement, focus groups and telephone interviews will take place over the summer, followed by a full report to be published in the Autumn.