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Wiltshire residents who are caring for someone have been sharing their experiences and views in a survey carried out by local charity Carer Support Wiltshire.

Many are caring for long hours, including during the night, according to the results, and an overwhelming message was that unpaid carers need better and easier access to respite.

60% of respondents are dedicating more than 50 hours a week to their caring responsibilities. These responsibilities include those most associated with caring, such as cooking, administering medication and helping someone to get dressed, but often involve many other things too – shopping, cleaning, organising finances, DIY and gardening, advocating for someone and providing emotional support.

Key findings include:

  • 98% of respondents say they feel stressed about their caring role, with nearly one in five saying they permanently experience stress.
  • 90% say they are mentally exhausted.
  • 40% say they feel they have lost control of their lives.
  • 67% feel their caring role limits their choices about the future.
  • 47% of respondents have experienced physical or emotional harm from the person they care for.
  • 20% say they are struggling to meet basic living needs and half expressed concerns about their long-term financial situation.

In terms of how support could be improved for those who are caring for someone in Wiltshire, the overwhelming response was that carers would like better and easier access to respite.

61% feel that community services are not meeting their needs and 64% feel they couldn’t access time-limited respite.

50% express dissatisfaction with professional support provided by paid carers and respite services.

Leanne Hubbard is Chief Executive of Carer Support Wiltshire. She said:

“When we talk to carers we’re hearing about how much more many are doing, so we know the demand on them is increasing. At Carer Support Wiltshire we are increasing the services we run to support carers’ wellbeing – for example we have a new café in Trowbridge starting this month and run in partnership with Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership for those looking after someone with mental health difficulties. We are running a new series of workshops from April onwards covering topics such as wellbeing, new to caring and end of caring, and we are working with organisations such as Mind and Olive Tree Counselling to increase the support we’re offering. As part of the carer poverty coalition, we are campaigning for the Government to provide targeted support to unpaid carers by reforming the benefits system to better support carers, raising the level of Carer’s Allowance and increasing the earnings limit.

“We hear the challenges with respite and finding good paid care, which is an issue across the country. Carer Support Wiltshire will continue making sure carers’ voices are heard, be advocates and push for improvements in these areas. Despite the challenges this survey exposes, 93% of respondents said they feel they have a positive impact on the person they care for. But we need carers to be able to make this huge positive difference without a detrimental cost to themselves.”