'We get ignored by society' - Life as an unpaid carer in Wales as 'urgent action' needed

Micheal Sarsfield speaks to ITV Wales.

A man who cares for both his parents has told ITV Wales unpaid carers should be given more support as they are 'ignored by society'.

Micheal Sarsfield, 33, has experienced aggravated neuralgia and depression which is tiring and draining as the pressure to do more as an unpaid carer has increased.

A new report by Carers Wales found unpaid carers will have to take on additional tasks and do more for loved ones.

This is due to many health boards in Wales announcing that they are unable to fulfil community care packages because of widespread difficulties in recruiting paid care workers. This comes as the as the social care sector faces a "staffing crisis".

Mr Sarsfield, from Swansea, said going out to do shopping can feel like 'the only break' he gets during the day but even then he worries: "Are they going to fall? Or are you going to get a call saying your dad has gone into hospital?".

Micheal says he has struggled with his mental health over the last two years. Credit: Family photo

Mr Sarsfield's mother suffers from phycological and physical issues while his father has mobility problems.

His daily routine can include getting up in the middle of the night to assist his parents, then at 6am he starts breakfast, house chores and helps get them dressed for the day.

He said: "The support has decreased during the pandemic, we are expected to do more.

"The government is going to have to give us some sort of relief, we aren't trained, we are also spending our money on equipment.

"I spend about £150 a month just to get certain items you can't get in normal shops.

"I feel depressed, I'm wondering why I'm doing this, am I going to carry on, what does my future hold?

Mr Sarsfield would like there to be more training and equipment on offer to unpaid carers.

He said: "They could help us with cleaning, my mum and dad couldn't come home from the hospital until the house was clean, you have to give us help or they will suffer.

"I struggle to get job interviews because they see I'm a carer and think, no not him."

"Some people recognise us as carers, I can tell other people think we're a waste of space and think he's a time-waster."

Micheal said he would like a job working with trains in the future.

Micheal is a model train enthusiast and hopes to one day work at the railway.

"I'm willing to do the learning and training. I volunteer and help at my local railway down in Camarthen down at the Gwili so maybe one day I can do something like that."

The report by Carers Wales also revealed seven in 10 unpaid carers said their mental health had worsened over the past two years.

And over 70 per cent of unpaid carers have said the health of the person they care for has deteriorated over the course of the pandemic, the charity said.

Many carers are hit by a £1,300 financial penalty and Carers Wales are calling on the Welsh government to work with local authorities to provide additional direct payments to carers, to enable carers to purchase alternative forms of support.

Claire Morgan, director of Carers Wales, said "Nearly two years on from the start of the pandemic, and many months after Wales left lockdown in the spring, services carers rely on are still heavily disrupted and the moves by many local authorities and health boards to ask unpaid carers to take on yet more caring duties risks a further deterioration in the health of carers and those they care for."

"This is despite unpaid carers saving Wales £33m every day of the pandemic or £12 billion over a year."

"2022 must begin with urgent action to meet the needs of unpaid carers who have gone above and beyond during the pandemic.

"The Welsh Government and councils should consider the recommendations made in our report and must work together to increase the availability and flexibility of direct payments to help carers manage amidst wider pressures in social care."

Welsh Government response

The Welsh Government has acknowledged the pressure the social care system and shortage of social care workers is having on families across Wales.

The Deputy Minister for Social Services said: “This year we have provided additional funding of £10million to support unpaid carers of all ages.

"This includes £3million allocated to local authorities to increase opportunities for carers to take a break.

“Our recent carers’ rights campaign encouraged people with caring responsibilities to get in touch with their local authority to see what support is available. Our early feedback has told us more carers are taking steps to access the support they are entitled to."