Lack of support for Wales' 370,000 unpaid carers 'a massive problem'

John Nunnerley is cared for around the clock by his wife Carroll. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Research by ITV Wales has revealed a lack of support for the 370,000 unpaid carers across the country.

We found information on unpaid carers differs across local authorities and health boards, with many not even having a designated budget set aside for their needs.

Unpaid carers in Wales make up around 12% of the population, with three in five of us likely to become carers at some point in our lives.

Among them is 76-year-old Carroll Nunnerley, a full-time carer for her 82-year-old husband John.

John has needed care since suffering a stroke 19 years ago. He also has heart failure, vascular dementia, prostate cancer and circulation problems. His complex needs mean that he requires 24-hour support.

“I don’t get a day off,” says Carroll, who herself has a disability and is often in pain.

“Even when you are sleeping or you are upstairs or you are having a shower or doing something else, you never switch off. And it is very tiring.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way but sometimes I find myself running thin. There is not a lot of me left - it's a long, hard job.”

96% of community care we give in Wales is provided by unpaid carers - friends and family members who go ‘above and beyond’ to support their loved ones. The care they offer is worth an estimated £8.1bn to the Welsh economy.

But there are warnings that our unpaid carers are not receiving adequate support, despite being among some of the most overworked in the UK.

As many as three-quarters say their role has impacted negatively on their own mental health.

Carroll herself has a disability and is 76 years old. She says she is often left exhausted by her role as carer. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales
  • Unpaid carers make up 12% of Wales' population.

  • They are worth an estimated £8.1bn a year to the Welsh economy.

The job of caring for a loved one can often be physically gruelling. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Julie Morgan AM, Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services, admits unpaid carers are not being supported as well as they should be, but says the Welsh Government is working to change that.

“We have set up a ministerial advisory group with representatives from health and local authorities and different agencies,” she told ITV News. “We want to look at that group and we want to plan action points with timetables.

“Next year, we are launching a method of establishing exactly who the carers are so that we can see what those carers want, how we can help them and what the results of that help are. I can absolutely assure you that we have the determination and the drive in the Government to tackle this issue.”

The Nunnerleys have been married for 47 years. Credit: ITV Cymru Wales

Despite the difficulties, the ‘sometimes lonely’ job of caring for husband John is something that Carroll does gladly after 47 years of marriage.

“I have my fella - and that is more important to me. I don’t want to lose him,” Carole says, tearfully.

“That’s why I won’t put him in to a care home if I can help it. I just don’t want to lose him. I want as much of him as there is while I can have it.

“More people need to be made aware of what being a carer is and that we are not invisible. So one can still have a life as a carer and not just be a serf. Because I’m not a serf, nor a slave. Just wife. And carer.”

You can watch Wales This Week: Who Cares? Tonight at 8:00pm on ITV Cymru Wales, or catch up by visiting the ITV Wales programmes page.

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