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More carer support required: Poll
The Government has faced calls to boost support for unpaid carers as new research reveals almost half are sacrificing their own health to look after a loved one.
The survey, which has been released to coincide with Carers Week, showed two in five unpaid carers put off medical treatment because of the demands of their role.
The survey of 3,400 carers also showed 83% suffered physical heath problems associated with caring for an ill, frail or disabled family member or friend, with 36% sustaining an injury such as back pain. A total of 87% said caring had been detrimental to their mental health.
Carers Week manager Helen Clarke said the Government needed to do more to help the UK's 6.4 million carers, with 64% of those surveyed blaming their poor health on a lack of practical support and half on not enough financial support.
She called for more sustainable social care funding, better signposting for support services and regular health checks for carers. Ms Clarke said: "It's a scandal that carers can't get the time or support they need to look after themselves, which could be jeopardising their health as a result.
"Carers are feeling the strain of a woefully underfunded system and still we're seeing more cuts. Unpaid carers save the Government a fortune - £119 billion a year, yet they're let down in return. It is time for urgent action to tackle the crisis in social care."
For 20 years, Tracy Sloan has cared for her son Phillip, who has severe cerebral palsy. Last year, Ms Sloan put off a regular screening appointment only to discover later she had cancer. Even after treatment, she said there was little time for recovery.
"Looking after Phillip is so full on, that it just didn't occur to me to keep an eye on my own health," Ms Sloan said.
"I was really shocked when I discovered I had cancer and needed an operation. I came home from hospital exhausted, emotional and fragile. I really needed the chance to rest but instead I had to deal with Phillip's demands too, and that took its toll on my recovery."
Carers Week is run by a group of eight charities including Age UK, Carers Trust, Carers UK, Independent Age, Macmillan Cancer Support, Marie Curie Cancer Care, MS Society and Parkinson's UK.