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8 in 10 people caring for loved ones “have felt lonely or socially isolated”

Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness aims to shine a spotlight on unpaid carers, with their it’s time to “Start a Conversation”, initiative as new research from Carers UK shows more action is needed to support unpaid carers who feel isolated and lonely.

Greater understanding from friends, colleagues, and the public, as well as more opportunities for breaks and social activities, are all needed to combat a ‘silent epidemic’ of loneliness affecting those providing support to ill, older or disabled loved ones.

More than 8 in 10 (81%) surveyed unpaid carers described themselves as “lonely or socially isolated” due to their caring responsibilities, with those affected facing a potentially damaging impact on their mental and physical wellbeing.

The report suggests that current carers who have not felt lonely were less likely to suffer mental (42%) and physical (35%) ill-health compared to those who did. Carers who had felt lonely or isolated were almost twice as likely to report worsened mental (77%) and physical (67%) health. Amongst carers, an unwillingness to talk to others about care responsibilities was a key barrier to inclusion at work, home and in the community. One third (32%) felt “uncomfortable” talking to friends about caring, as did those who felt “isolated” at work due to care responsibilities (32%).

Alongside a lack of understanding from others, carers most frequently ascribed loneliness or social isolation to a lack of time or money to socialise and the difficulty of leaving the house due to caring commitments.

The findings are released today as part of the charity’s work with the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness. The Commission aims to ‘Start a Conversation’ around loneliness, mobilising the public to combat the ‘silent epidemic’ by destigmatising a prevalent but often unaddressed issue.

As a founding partner of the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, Carers UK is joining forces with other charities including Age UK and Carers Trust to shine a spotlight on loneliness in caring, along with ways to break isolation.

They are urging both carers and the wider public to do the following: Among friends and family, we can start by putting ourselves in the shoes of others and seeking to understand each unique caring situation through honest conversation. · In the workplace, we can start a conversation by talking about caring issues with colleagues and promoting carer-friendly policies. · In the community, we can start a caring conversation as we go about our daily business, whatever we do for a living – whether for example we’re a shop assistant, a GP, a leisure centre manager, a pharmacist, or work in an office. · As carers, we can identify the key triggers for our loneliness and start a conversation with somebody in a position to support us. This could mean opening up to family and friends or attending one of our local support groups or carer cafés.

Carer Support Wiltshire also run a befriending service for those needing support over the phone. If you would like to find out more about this or support groups and carer cafes get in touch with our friendly team on 0800 181 4118.