“We’re going to have a new pandemic on its own of like, increased mental health because the support has just disappeared”

The importance of supporting the most vulnerable in our society has been highlighted during the Covid pandemic when shielding and reduced access to services meant that those who provide the care – paid and unpaid – had to provide increased levels of support. This in turn had a huge impact on our carers, many of whom at the start of the pandemic last year did not have adequate PPE or the support they needed.

Carers Trust Scotland has published research about the experiences of the pandemic among unpaid carers and carer service support workers across Scotland. More than 500 participants shared the challenges of caring, and supporting unpaid carers, throughout the pandemic.

The report shows that 90% of unpaid carers said that they are spending more time caring and 82% saying they have had no respite since the beginning of the pandemic. With lockdowns and restrictions, many unpaid carers have been unable to share the responsibilities with family and friends and many services have had to pause or reduce their input.

These challenges also impact those carer service workers supporting unpaid carers. As other services paused, 76% of carer support workers that participated in the survey found their workload increased. 65% say that their job role has changed, as delivery of support moved online.

Carer support workers highlighted the emotionally demanding calls from unpaid carers, and the challenges of taking these calls in a home working environment without the support of colleagues that you would have in an office.

Commenting on the report,Hannah Martin, Research and Engagement Officer for Carers Trust Scotland said:

“The pandemic has been a very challenging time for both unpaid carers and carer support workers. The challenges unpaid carers have faced, have directly impacted those supporting them. Through the lived experience of unpaid carers and carer support workers, this research illuminates those challenges throughout this unprecedented time.”

For many unpaid carers, the needs of the person(s) they care for have intensified during the pandemic. Some unpaid carers felt that the restrictions had contributed to a deterioration in the condition of the person(s) they care for which in turn had intensified their own caring role

COVID-19 in Scotland:The impact on unpaid carers and carer service support workers

Unpaid carers are spending much more time with those they care for.

Some unpaid carers live with the person(s) they care for, and others changed their living arrangements to be able to provide care during the pandemic.

COVID-19 in Scotland: The impact on unpaid carers and carer service support workers

For unpaid carers, shielding to protect their loved ones and unable to socialise, it has been very difficult to get a break or even to go out. Other family members or friends who might have been able to provide additional support to both the carer and the cared for were unable to do so because of shielding and other restrictions like travel.

For paid and unpaid carers making sure they were able to provide the support to the person they care for during the Covid pandemic has seriously affected both their physical and mental wellbeing. Unable to exercise the way they would usually do and the stress of increased workload added to the anxiety of seeking to protect the person they care for from this dreadful virus – all of this has contributed to a deterioration in the physical and mental well being of carers.

In addition to providing an evidence base of experiences, the research puts forward recommendations and suggestions to support carer services and staff as they move out of the crisis phase of the pandemic. This includes recognising and valuing the incredible contribution of unpaid carers, and carer support workers over the pandemic period.

The report has made recommendations:

  1. Remobilisation plan – The NCOs (National Carers Associations) and Scottish Government should work collaboratively, with carer services, to create a national remobilisation plan.
  2. Reaffirm organisational purpose – the development of service delivery models that allow services to achieve their purpose in a sustainable manner
  3. Communication with commissioning bodies – commissioning bodies should ensure their expectations and asks of carer services are realistic and in line with the available capacity of carer services.
  4. Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 funding- Local authorities should be transparent on the Carers (Scotland) Act funding received and how it is allocated to deliver on priorities for unpaid carers.
  5. Supporting staff at work – Positive health and wellbeing practises should be embedded into support and supervision processes, and the wider work culture.
  6. Recognition- Carer services should be recognised at a local and national level as an integral part of the health and social care landscape in Scotland.

Professor Saul Becker, world-leading researcher on unpaid carers’ rights and Carers Trust Ambassador, said:

“During the pandemic, unpaid carers of all ages, have been spending more time caring and more people than ever before have taken on unpaid caring responsibilities while statutory and other support services have been reduced or not available.

“This has also added additional pressures on carer support services that have had to adapt their practices quickly and provide holistic support to unpaid carers during very challenging circumstances.

“I welcome this COVID-19 in Scotland impact report on unpaid carers and carer service workers and believe every effort should be made to support the implementation of the report recommendations and suggestions, which could further improve the lives of unpaid carers and recognise and value the vital role of carer support services.”

Commenting on the results of the report and what the Scottish Government can do to support carers, Mental Wellbeing and Social Care Minister Kevin Stewart, said:

“Carers, and the services that support them have done a remarkable job in very difficult circumstances over this past year during the pandemic. I want to thank them for all their hard work and effort.

“During the pandemic, we have invested an additional £1.9 million in extra carer support via carer organisations. The Scottish Government continues to work closely with the Carers Trust and national care organisations to ensure that carers continue to receive the support and the services they rely on. We will continue to do so as we move into a new phase of the pandemic and society starts to open up.

“The Scottish Government is committed to establishing a National Care Service by the end of this parliament to oversee the delivery care, invest in better terms and conditions for the workforce and provide better support for unpaid carers.”

You can access the report here

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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