Caring

Every day, 6,000 people take on a caring responsibility, many of whom don’t think of themselves as carers.

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Find out more about being a carer

If you support and assist someone who’s unable to care for themselves, you’re probably a carer. In this guide on caring, we help you recognise if you’re a carer and find out about the help and support available to help you maintain your own health and wellbeing. 

  • Am I a carer?

    'A carer is someone of any age who provides unpaid support to family or friends who could not manage without this help due to illness, disability, mental ill health or a substance misuse problem.' (Carers UK)

    There are around 6.5 million people in the UK providing unpaid care to ill, frail or disabled family members or friends. If you’re working, one out of every seven of your colleagues is likely to be caring for someone too. 

    Do I have to be caring full-time?

    No. You could be caring full time, and have had to give up your job or your retirement. Or you could be juggling caring duties with a part-time job, or be working full time and providing care in the evenings and weekends. Other family members or friends, paid carers or social services may also be helping.

    Do I have to be caring long-term?

    No. You may be in a supportive role for many years. Or you might just be caring for someone while they’re ill.

    Do I have to be of working age?

    No. You can be any age and be a carer. From a pensioner looking after their spouse to a young child who takes on caring duties for a parent or other family member.
  • What does caring involve?

    As a carer, you could be carrying out some or all of the following:
    • physical care such as helping someone use the stairs, or get into and out of bed,
    • personal care such as helping someone wash, dress, or go to the toilet
    • medical care such as giving somone medication or injections
    • practical tasks such as cooking, doing housework, or managing personal finances
  • The impact of caring

    Caring can be rewarding, but it can also be physically, emotionally and financially challenging.  Taking care of yourself is as important for you as it is for the person you care for.

    It’s common to feel a mix of emotions including stress, frustration and isolation. And often it can feel like your own health and wellbeing comes second, or not at all.

    You may find that the daily pressures of being a carer give rise to issues like:

    Stress and anxiety
    You may find it hard to switch off, have difficulty sleeping, or find you’re eating too much or too little. If you feel stressed or anxious over a long period, it can have a negative impact on your mental health.

    Feelings of isolation
    You may feel guilty if you take time for yourself, or find it hard to make any time to socialise or pursue your own interests. This can make you feel very lonely.

    Physical health problems
    For some people, caring is a round-the clock-responsibility. If your role involves constant lifting or carrying, you could suffer from aches and pains, particularly in your back. You also might not have time to get exercise or to cook healthy food. And if your sleep is disrupted, you may feel exhausted a lot of the time. This can make you more likely to experience physical illness. 
  • What rights do carers have?

    If you are a carer you have your own rights and entitlements. Knowing these can help you get the support you need.

    Carer’s assessment
    If you need support to help you with your caring duties, you’re entitled to a free carer’s assessment from your local authority to consider your needs and to find out what additional support they can provide to help you in your role. 

    Direct payments
    If you’ve been assessed as requiring help from social services, you don’t have to accept the support they offer. Instead you can opt to receive direct payments to pay for the services of your choice.

    Carer’s allowance
    If you fulfil certain criteria (such as being over 16 and not in full-time education, and you don’t earn more than a certain amount) and you look after someone for 35 hours a week or more, you may be entitled to carer’s allowance benefit.

    Rights at work
    If you balance a job with your caring duties, you’re entitled to a number of workplace rights like requesting flexible working and time off for emergencies.

Next steps

If you need support in your role as a carer, there are a list of practical actions you can take to make sure you're getting the help you need.