A new report from Tinder Foundation, in partnership with Family Fund, Carers Trust and Carers UK, highlights the impact that caring can have on an individual’s health and wellbeing, and how these daily challenges can often be exacerbated by a lack of digital access.

The Health and Wellbeing of Unpaid Carers: Where Can Digital Skills and Community Support Add Value? was written following a mixture of focus groups, interviews with carer support organisations and a survey of over 1,800 carers (conducted by Carers UK and Family Fund), and draws attention to the often overlooked needs of carers and calls for action to improve the support available.

The main findings include:

  • Unpaid caring is a hidden issue: Many people providing care don’t necessarily see themselves as carers, and national and community organisations don’t feel they are reaching as many carers as they’d like with information and support.
  • Caring leaves little time to focus on own health: With those surveyed having a considerably lower health and wellbeing score against the national average, and 20% of carers considering themselves to have a mental health condition, it’s important carers receive the support they need to help them look after themselves.
  • Carers feel unsupported: One of the biggest challenges carers say they face is a lack of support - financial, practical and emotional support. Not knowing where to get support is a problem, with 17% of carers saying they don’t know where to go, and 29% saying there is a lack of support available.
  • Digital exclusion is a key issue amongst carers: Socially excluded people such as those of low economic status, of older age and with a disability are more likely to be digitally excluded. Many carers fall into these categories and therefore many carers are missing out on the benefits the internet can bring. Only 15% of survey respondents use the internet to claim benefits online, and only 31% to save money online.

One parent carer of a disabled child was quoted as saying “Caring has affected my health; I have got fibromyalgia. I lack spontaneity, I can’t make any plans and I am always late. People don’t understand - I am managing different households. What is my future like? What will happen to me because I spend so much time looking after someone else?”

The report makes several recommendations that could make a difference to carers' lives, including:

  • Raise the profile of caring. Local and national organisations should continue to work in partnership to raise the profile of carers within their networks and use volunteers as a way to reach unidentified carers.
  • Support carers to focus on their own health by promoting the use of digital tools to save time and make life easier, through recommended health and wellbeing resources and digital peer and emotional support platforms.
  • Raise awareness of support that fits around carer demands through easy access to online portals with bespoke local carer information and guidance (on benefits entitlements and how to save money ), with trusted, recommended resources and eLearning to keep carers up-to-date on carer best practice and expertise.
  • Reduce digital exclusion amongst carers by working in partnership at a national and local level to campaign for support to help carers overcome barriers of access, motivation and skills, through online learning platforms to help carers develop digital, lobbying for cheaper home access options for carers and raising awareness of affordable home access options on offer.

Cheryl Ward, Chief Executive of Family Fund, said “Every year Family Fund supports tens of thousands of parent carers with grants which help ease some of the daily pressures of caring. Parents tell us they experience a range of pressures from suitable childcare to flexible working arrangements and the day-to-day impact on home life, particularly sleep.”

“The more we know, the better we can help. The results particularly highlight the prevalence of isolation amongst carers and the importance of maintaining carers’ wellbeing and resilience - issues we will continue to advocate for action on. We have welcomed contributing to this project and ensuring parent carers have been able to give their views and we hope it will raise awareness amongst others to improve the support and information available to carers.”

Read the full report on Tinder's website.