“…I feel like I live in an open prison on a desert island.”

VOCAL (Voice of Carers Across Lothian), in partnership with Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership (EHSCP) today released the findings of the Edinburgh Carers Survey.

The survey involved 1,169 unpaid carers across Edinburgh, and included three focus groups. The report, a vital snapshot into the lives of Edinburgh carers, reveals the challenges and pressures faced in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the cost of living crisis, and demographic changes.

  • Carers’ health and wellbeing is declining

The survey highlighted a decline in carers’ health and wellbeing since the carer survey in 2021. 72% of respondents agreeing with the statement “Being a carer has affected my physical health” and 82% agreeing with the statement “Being a carer has affected my mental health”. Only 24% of carers said they had a good balance between caring and other things in their life.

  • Carers are struggling financially

In response to the statement “being a carer has improved my finances”, 41% strongly disagreed and 31% disagreed – leading to an overall 72% negative response.

  • Carers felt, and continue to feel abandoned, since the COVID-19 pandemic

Some services which supported the person/people they care for have not returned to pre-COVID levels, placing an increasing burden on carers. Carers are leaving the workforce in order to provide care with 65% reducing their working hours or giving up work completely.

  • Carers need a break now more than ever

The requirement for support to take a break is now the most requested type of support, up from fourth in 2021, requested by 60% of all carers in 2023. In the qualitative research, carers also requested support with day-to-day tasks, which is a new trend.

The findings indicate that carers are burnt out and unable to find time away from caring due to the intensive nature of the role, combined with isolation and a lack of care services.

The survey also highlights the importance of Edinburgh’s carer support organisations and the positive impact these organisations have on carers. Carers were positive about the support they had received from organisations such as VOCAL, Care4Carers, the Action Group and LCIL.

Rosemary McLoughlin, Chief Executive of VOCAL said:

“The results of the Edinburgh Carer Survey are very concerning. Carers play a vital role in our community, yet they often do so at great personal cost and they are shouldering increasing responsibilities as health and social care budgets tighten and care services reduce It is imperative that we work together to ensure carers can take regular breaks from caring and to ensure that carers’ health and finances are not negatively impacted by taking on a caring role.”

The report recognises that more needs to be done for carers in the city and makes a number of recommendations for Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership. There is a commitment to offer more consistent and regular care and support to those being cared for, and continued investment in replacement care.

Katie McWilliam, Strategic Programme and Quality Manager, Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership, said:

“The findings in the survey are extremely valuable, and hearing from carers is powerful motivation for us all to continue to support unpaid carers as best we can.  The themes align with our Joint Carer Strategy 2023-26, and associated implementation plan, taking forward what matters for unpaid carers.

We know there is still progress to be made, and are proud of all the support that we commission and is delivered, in the main by the expertise of our third sector partners.

We have come together with our partners recently to consider how we collectively continue to make progress to improve the experience for unpaid carers, as a result of the survey findings.”

You can read the full report by downloading the PDF.