Friday 30th September 2016
Mac Voice, the magazine for Macmillan professionals: Autumn 2016
Our latest research highlights the huge number of people in the UK currently looking after loved ones with cancer – many of whom are not getting support
The number of cancer carers in the UK has risen to more than 1.4 million in 2016. This is an increase of nearly one third in the past five years.
In June, Macmillan reached out to carers during Carers Week. We urged anyone looking after a loved one with cancer to contact us if they needed information and advice. Carers Week also saw the publication of our new carers research, which was carried out by YouGov. The findings highlight that the number of people caring for someone with cancer in the UK has risen to more than 1.4 million in 2016: an increase of nearly one third (27%) in the past five years.
It is clear that as the number of people living with cancer grows, so will the number of carers – and we need to ensure the right support is in place for them.
The new findings suggest that family and friends are spending an average of 17.5 hours a week looking after a loved one with cancer. That’s 2.5 hours more than in 2011. And shockingly, one in five spend the equivalent of a full time job – more than 35 hours a week – fulfilling their caring role. Carers are also doing more tasks for their loved ones, including personal care and even healthcare tasks, such as giving medication and injections. Many carers also take on a care coordination role, including liaising with professionals, finding information and making phone calls, and writing emails and letters on behalf of the person they care for.
1 in 5 cancer carers spend 35 hours a week – the equivalent of a full time job – fulfilling their caring role.
In 2016 carers were spending an average of 17.5 hours a week looking after a loved one with cancer.
A lack of support
Worryingly, the research reveals that over half (55%) of carers do not receive any support at all. Many do not identify as carers and they often tell us they are just fulfilling their normal role as a partner, son, daughter, brother, friend or neighbour. Others believe they don’t do enough to qualify as a carer. But this lack of recognition can lead to a lack of support. Once someone is identified as a carer, it can open up the help available. This could include a Carer's Assessment from their local authority, or financial support such as the Carer's Allowance benefit.
55% of cancer carers do not receive any support.
How you could help
The research suggests that, after family, friends and health and social care services, Macmillan was the third most common source of support for carers who did have help. As Macmillan professionals, you may be in touch with carers on a daily basis, so you are ideally placed to help identify people as carers and signpost them to support. To learn about ways to do this, visit macmillan.org.uk/supportingcarers You can also pass on Macmillan’s support offer through our leaflet Supporting a loved one through cancer, which is available to order at be.macmillan.org.uk/carers
A new Carers’ Strategy for England will be published later this year. It will set out how all carers will be supported over the next five years. We are calling on the government to ensure health and social care professionals work together to identify carers at the earliest opportunity, so that they get the help and information they need. We want to ensure professionals recognise, involve and support carers in providing care to people with cancer. We also want the government to publish a clear plan on how and when the strategy will be implemented.