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  1. ITV Report

Calls for more support for unpaid family carers

Rising demand for care and the increasing cost of providing it, is putting huge pressure on families which in many cases, is taking a toll on their health and wellbeing.

That's the assessment of the Local Government Association and a number of care charities, which say that many of the 5.7 million unpaid carers in England are unable to take a break from their demanding role.

Latest research shows that nearly three-quarters (72%) of carers in England have suffered mental ill health, such as stress and depression, while 61% have experienced physical ill health due to caring.

Yet a fifth of carers in England responding to Carers UK’s State of Caring Survey have not received a carer’s assessment in the past year.

The LGA wants the cost of these assessments to be included in the long-term solution to paying for adult social care and for the Government’s delayed green paper on adult social care to support unpaid carers. It is also calling for sufficient funding to ensure services, such as carers’ breaks, are available to all carers who need them.

The number of unpaid carers over 85 has more than doubled in a decade

In an ageing population, the number of unpaid family carers is increasing and many are elderly - there has been a 128% rise in the number of carers in England over the age of 85.

Beryl Laud, 80, cares for her husband Ken who has severe Alzheimer's disease. She is supported by four carer visits a day, which comes at a financial cost. She says there should be more government support for people in their situation.

Beryl and her husband, Ken

It's a lonely life for him and it's a lonely life for me because you don't live, you exist. I love him so much and it breaks my heart to see him and he can't remember things, simple things.

You have great sorrow for what's happening to your loved one. He can't speak for himself. I've got to speak for him. And if enough people stand up and say enough's enough, surely, surely something can be done.

– Beryl

Many people in Beryl's position rely on charities and voluntary groups for support and information.

At the Daisy Chain Café in Yateley, Hampshire, people with dementia and their carers can attend free weekly meet-ups for a chat and a coffee. The group is run by trained volunteers and is funded by donations.

Coordinator Julia Wedlock said: "The main aim is to create a space where people can enjoy themselves. It's important that we all enjoy the experience of being socially interactive and getting support."

Annette, who cares for her husband Peter, started going to Daisy Chain Café a year ago.

She said: "Peter really enjoys it and it keeps him active. And it has allowed me to continue with my interests. You can also get lots of information about different services here. We look forward to coming every week."

Hillary also comes to the café with her husband, Ken.

When we first came Ken had only just been diagnosed, so it came as a bit of a shock when I saw people whose dementia was much more advanced. But through coming regularly, I'm not frightened anymore. And it makes a big difference to be able to talk to people when times are hard.

– Hillary

According to the charity Carers UK, unpaid carers currently contribute £132 billion pounds worth of care support to family and friends. That is more than seven times the £17 billion councils spend annually.

Earlier this year, the government launched a two-year plan to raise the profile of carers and says its forthcoming green paper on social care will look at long-term sustainable solutions for the whole system.

  • Watch Emma Wilkinson's report: