Desperate situation faced by family carers in the UK is unsustainable

Categories: Care.

The UK is dependent on an army of exhausted familial carers to look after its increasingly ageing population – but the situation is unsustainable because the people it’s relying on are increasingly under intense personal, professional and emotional strain.


  • Millions of multi-generational carers looking after elderly relatives are highly stressed and isolated, new research reveals
  • Most are unaware of where to look or who to speak to for help with care needs
  • A worrying 88% neglect their own health and wellbeing, while 65% struggle with their mental health as they juggle caring for ageing parents alongside their own families and careers
  • Many carers feel unable to cope with a third saying they are now at breaking point
  • Home Instead today launches a new campaign, What About You?, to raise awareness of the issues faced by family carers and highlight how Home Instead can help
  • A new hard-hitting film accompanying the campaign brings to life the issues facing this exhausted and stressed segment of society

That is the disturbing central finding from new research conducted into the lives and lifestyles of the nation’s multi-generational carers and the basis for a new campaign from Home Instead, the UK’s largest provider of private home care, to highlight the intolerable burden they are under.

This snapshot study of the state of the voluntary care sector – typically middle aged people attempting to look after their ageing parents while also working and looking after their own families – exposes a group dealing with unmanageable pressures.

There are an estimated 5 million plus people [1] providing unpaid care in the UK but they are given minimal support from the government or local authorities and so find themselves increasingly struggling, without understanding the other support available to them in the market.

The problem is set to get worse as our ageing population grows – there are now more people aged 65 and over in England and Wales than children aged under 15. The number of people aged over 64 has surged by 20% over the past decade in England and Wales, to 11.1 million people. Nearly one in five people are aged over 65.[2]

Key stats from the research show how badly this is affecting carers’ lives:

  • 88% neglect their own health and wellbeing
  • 65% struggle with their mental health
  • 31% feel they are at breaking point

Concerned about the scale of the problem facing this under-acknowledged group, Home Instead, which commissioned the study, is today launching the What About You? campaign to spark a much needed debate about the pressures this segment of society is under and what can be done to support them.

Home care can provide much-needed respite to these under pressure carers restoring important family relationships that can suffer when somebody takes on a caring responsibility.

To accompany the campaign, the home care provider has commissioned a short, hard-hitting film, based on interviews with representative real life family carers. The film is an unapologetically raw exploration of what day to day life is like for millions of multi-generational carers across the UK.

Martin Jones, Home Instead CEO, said:

“It’s impossible to think of a group that does more for less in this country than family carers – yet their wellbeing is almost entirely neglected.

“Younger families receive state support in the form of subsidised childcare or paid maternity and paternity leave. But those who are 20-30 years older, and who are often supporting both younger and older dependents, are almost completely neglected.

“As a society, we rely on their unending energy and love, giving them little or no support to navigate the complex social care system. They get no breaks, no help, little financial support and, as our research shows, this is taking a huge toll. Their mental health is at a dangerous low. They struggle to keep going and significant numbers are at breaking point.”

What is particularly striking in the research is the extent to which, despite their extraordinary efforts, carers consistently feel guilty – about not doing enough for the person or people they’re caring for, for their partner, their day job and even for themselves.

As well as 88% who feel guilty about neglecting their own health and well-being, the research reveals that:

  • 86% say they’re feeling guilty about not doing enough for their parents or their children.
  • 71% feel guilt about not being able to put enough into work, 75% about neglecting careers
  • 78% feel that way about their marriage/relationship, 85% about other relationships (friendships)

In addition to guilt, there are other issues of concern around mental health and well being:

  • 45% feel isolated or trapped by being a carer
  • 49% feel stressed, 57% exhausted
  • 38% feel they are juggling too much, 33% feel overwhelmed and helpless
  • 42% take prescribed medication for anxiety or depression
  • 23% self medicate with alcohol, 17% with drugs bought illegally

And for many, there is no end in sight – with some 39% saying they expect to be in this situation for more than five years.

A poor understanding of the social care market – what help and choice is available from private providers and the state – is making life much harder than it needs to be for many.

Over half (59%) know little about what is available, suggesting education is needed to help and support them and to alleviate any stigma associated. 40% believe turning to social care is a sign of weakness for themselves and 44%believe it means they’re failing their family.

More than half (53%) know nothing about the wealth of social care options available through private providers and the different ways to pay for them such as Direct Payments.

Martin Jones added: “It’s heartbreaking to read how the effort to keep all the plates spinning leaves so many people feeling guilty and alone.

“Improving people’s understanding of what help is available and where to find it is a crucial starting point and more must be done to educate and inform. More and more people are looking to private healthcare support outside of state provided social care – in recent months we’ve seen a huge spike in inquiries about our services.

“The What About You campaign aims to bring to life the daily strain so many multigenerational carers find themselves under. It is a reminder that they are demonstrating truly inspiring compassion and commitment on a daily basis – but they need help. No one can carry this kind of burden alone – although that doesn’t stop millions trying.”



[1] UK Census,2011%20to%204.4%25%20in%202021

[2] UK Census


About Home Instead

  • Home Instead UK is a national home care company which specialises in providing care and companionship in the home for older people. It also delivers specialist dementia care, Parkinson’s care, end-of-life, live-in care and respite care.
  • Home Instead was brought to the UK in 2005. 17 years on, it has 240 offices caring for over 16,000 It provides around six million hours of relationship-led home care each year.
  • In August 2021 Home Instead was acquired by Honor (a technology provider), bringing together the largest home care network and the leading care technology platform to pioneer new innovations in the care sector and ultimately expand the world’s capacity to care.
  • Its 10,000 Care Professionals sit at the heart of the business and are matched to clients based on shared interests and hobbies. They’re given time to care for clients with minimum visits of an hour and have access to a range of benefits to support their wellbeing – including healthcare, counselling and financial resources.
  • Care Professionals have the opportunity to follow a career pathway if they choose and access professionally accredited training. This includes specialist training in dementia awareness and end of life care, both of which are City & Guilds assured. They can also receive training from Barclays Digital Eagles to help instil digital confidence amongst older people.
  • Home Instead is the only home care provider to be awarded the Queen’s Award for Enterprise.
  • Home Instead was the first home care provider to receive an inaugural Princess Royal Training Award, which demonstrates outstanding training and skills development programmes.
  • Home Instead has been rated ‘outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission in over a third of offices in England, with offices in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland exceeding their regulatory requirements.

Please find the original articlle published on ehospice UK edition HERE.

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