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Research shows significant impact on health and wellbeing of Surrey parent carers

A report published by Family Voice Surrey shows the toll that caring takes on the health and wellbeing of Surrey’s parent carers. Research carried out by the forum, funded by the Department for Education, gives health and social care professionals tasked with supporting families a better understanding of the impact caring has on parent carers' health and wellbeing.

The research found that:

  • 68% of parent carers are caring for more than 50 hours/week.

  • Less than 1% of carers said caring had had no impact on their physical or mental health.

  • Only 33% had had a carer’s assessment. Of those, 48% were asked about their own health needs during the assessment.

  • 16% said they never had time for leisure activities

  • 66% said they reduced their working hours or gave up work when they became a carer

  • 74% said caring had had a negative impact on their relationship with their spouse, and 61% said it had a negative impact on their relationship with their other children

A full copy of the report can be downloaded here. Family Voice Surrey has presented the research to health and social care commissioners and other practitioners, making the following recommendations:

1. A consistent approach to carers by GP and other healthcare services

Carers said that their GP could make the difference between coping and struggling. Good GP practices offer flexible appointments, and demonstrate a good understanding of the needs of carers.

2. A consistent approach to child and carer assessments

The number of Carers Assessments was surprisingly low, indicating that support is not being put in place to help families cope with their caring role.

3. Counselling

While counselling was widely offered, carers said they would benefit from counselling which was offered more flexibly (eg: telephone, or with an understanding of last-minute cancellations), or a wider range of counselling to include relationship and family counselling.

4. Improved financial and practical support, especially for single parent carers

Caring puts a financial strain on families, but trying to find information around financial support can be difficult. In addition, the admin involved in caring for a child with SEND can be onerous, and just adds extra pressure. As finances were often constrained, paying for respite/going out/looking after your health became more costly and less of a priority. Improved signposting to services which offer financial and practical support by GPs and paediatricians in particular (as these are the people parent carers first come into contact with) would help. Plus a wider range of discounts on health and leisure-related activities – to help support them with their health and wellbeing.

At the heart of this report is a group of parents and grandparents, all of whom are unpaid carers for their special needs child or children. While some may fare better than others, the report shows that very few are thriving. The impact of caring on their lives – and the need for greater support from services – is summed up in this quote from one respondent:

“I no longer enjoy my life. I used to look forward to the future, plan things, hope and expect things to be better, have hobbies, friends etc. Now I know what my future is - full time carer with no life of my own - and I'm not getting any younger or richer. Life can only get harder, plus I must face the fact that I can't live my daughter's lifetime so what will become of her, this beautiful, so vulnerable girl I love with all my heart, when I'm gone? I [experience] an all-encompassing feeling of hopelessness, and sadness, which goes beyond depression. There is no colour in my life anymore, no hope, just an inevitability of an increasing struggle to cope.”

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