A new report from the Centre for Welfare Reform has revealed that 88.5% of parent carers have experienced ill health related to their role in the last five years.

The Parent Carer Health study, which garnered response from 1,087 carers, found that among the most common concerns regarding the health and well-being of parent carers were anxiety, depression and tiredness. 93% of respondents felt their ill-health was exacerbated by the stress of being a parent carer, with one responding that ill-health and stress are “inextricably linked.”

The report also revealed that while 57% had gone to a GP about their ill-health, almost 50% said they received support that was irrelevant to them.

Among the most stressful concerns for parent carers were: education; the mental health of their child, their partner or themselves; the overall health of their child; and their finances. The sheer volume of paperwork which comes with being the parent of a disabled child was also a serious concern.

Asked if they had been offered a Carer’s Assessment in the last five years, 65% said no, with the most common response to the question being “what is a Carer’s Assessment?” Another person said that they had requested one, but were told that their daughter was “not disabled enough” for them to be given access. Of those who were given the assessment, 61% said nothing changed as a result, with one respondent saying they were given £300 towards pilates classes, while another had their respite cut by three nights despite saying they were having trouble coping and their relationship was breaking down.

Responding to the survey, Emily Holzhausen OBE, Director of Policy and Public Affairs, Carers UK: “Parents of disabled children often have to battle for their children’s support, putting their own needs, health, wellbeing and work, at the back of the queue. They have a right to their own support and time off as a human being and this should be seen as an investment in family life and the future. It is a false economy not to support parents of disabled children in their own right. Many of those parents will continue to support their ill or disabled child or children through into adulthood where health issues can persist unless tackled early.

“Increasingly we are seeing parents also looking older relatives, putting pressure on what can already be a very stressful situation. Very rarely are parents of disabled children seen “in the round”, with all their caring responsibilities. Whilst the legislation is supposed to promote a “whole family approach”, this is not necessarily what families experience and they can be pushed to breaking point. Breaks, which are often a lifeline, have been reduced and cut as budgets come under pressure.

“This report is yet more robust evidence for a change in practice and approach, but also demonstrates the urgent need for funding in the short and longer term for care.”

Image: Flickr/Nuno Murjal

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