Lisa Nandy MP: ​Unpaid carers are our unsung heroes

New data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed the true scale of the number of people providing unpaid caring support to family members, friends and loved ones across Wigan.
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Information from the 2021 Census shows that 31,475 people in Wigan (1 in 10 residents) were looking after someone without being paid.

Such carers provide vital support to someone with a disability, illness, mental health condition or those who may need help as they get older.

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Across England and Wales, the ONS found that more than 5 million people are providing unpaid care with an increasing number providing substantial care, of between 20-49 hours a week and over 50 hours.

Wigan MP Lisa NandyWigan MP Lisa Nandy
Wigan MP Lisa Nandy

In Wigan, 17,548 people were providing more than 20 hours of unpaid care a week – including 10,497 people doing so for more than 50 hours a week.

Unpaid carers are our unsung heroes. Without their tireless efforts millions of people would be left to manage without any support and our social care system would collapse.

Unpaid carers also save the economy billions of pounds with Carers UK recently estimating the value of unpaid care at £193 billion per year.

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Yet despite their massive contribution, carers continue to be overlooked by the Government leaving them to struggle with caring responsibilities without the financial and practical support they need.

Carers were also put under great pressure during the pandemic with 81% of unpaid carers saying they were spending even more time caring for relatives during that time.

Even before COVID struck, half of all carers said they hadn’t taken a break in over five years.

The cost-of-living crisis and the Government’s slow response to address it is also having a devastating impact on carers.

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Carers UK report that 25% of carers are cutting back on essentials like food or heating and 63% are extremely worried about managing their monthly costs.

Carers are having to dip into their savings, use credit cards and borrow money to keep the person they care for healthy. 1.2 million carers are already in poverty and that number is set to increase.

After years of promising action, the Government finally published a Social Care White Paper in 2021 with some proposals aimed at helping carers.

Yet the extra support promised by the Government does not go far enough and the additional funding proposed amounts to just £1.60 a year more for each unpaid carer.

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Over a year later we also still have no idea when the additional support will be introduced.

Carers and those they support deserve so much better than this.

We need to increase financial support for unpaid carers and reform our social security system, so that it once again provides a proper safety net and has dignity and respect at its heart.

We need to uphold carers’ rights in the Care Act; provide carers with proper information, advice and breaks and ensure more flexibility at work so unpaid carers can better balance work and caring responsibilities.

Unpaid carers are being pushed to breaking point. They cannot wait any longer – they need help and they need it now.