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Caring for our unpaid carers and the role of smart tech

Helen Walker, Chief Executive, Carers UK

Helen Walker, Chief Executive, Carers UK

4 min read Partner content

The majority of us will be unpaid carers in our lifetime. Today, there are 5.7 million in the UK who need more support.

The rise in the cost of living has affected everyone, but particularly people who provide unpaid care for their older, disabled or ill relatives or friends. Evidence shows that the longer you provide unpaid care, and the more care you’ve provided, the greater the likelihood that you will be more financially challenged and in poorer health.

Caring can be rewarding but also stressful, packed with worry and physically demanding. Juggling work and caring, having no time for a break, trying to keep someone safe, well and warm means that unpaid carers are much more likely to be in poor health themselves. 600 people a day give up work to care, often citing the juggle and stress of caring as a factor. We need a step change in the way that unpaid carers are identified and signposted to support of all kinds.

Nine in ten unpaid carers weren’t prepared for the responsibility of looking after someone, new research has found. Carers UK and Smart Energy GB have come together with real-life and celebrity carers to offer tips and advice to unpaid carers across Great Britain.

Most people don’t plan for caring. 73% of people (19 million in the UK) have never identified  as an unpaid carer even if they have experience of providing care. 8 million people said the delay in identifying as a carer impacted on their health, and 2 million said they got into debt as a result of caring.

Research by Smart Energy GB found that unpaid carers provided an average of 22.5 hours per week, 89% weren’t prepared for the amount of time and effort it would take to look after someone, and half (51%) said they needed more time to care than they first thought.

Carers need the information and support to help them as early as possible in their caring journey – whether that’s help with identifying as an unpaid carer on their GP patient record, being told about support available from councils as well as benefits their relatives or they may be entitled to, and about support in the workplace. It also means something as seemingly simple as helping them manage their to-do lists. 

Carers need the information and support to help them as early as possible in their caring journey – whether that’s help with identifying as an unpaid carer on their GP patient record, being told about support available from councils as well as benefits their relatives or they may be entitled to, and about support in the workplace. It also means something as seemingly simple as helping them manage their to-do lists.

73% of unpaid carers said a smart meter would help in their own home.

Technology also has an important role to play in supporting families providing unpaid care. From apps like Carers UK’s Jointly to remote hospital appointments, there are ways to save unpaid carers time and help on family costs. Smart meters can help carers keep a closer eye on costs or make informed decisions such as switching to off-peak energy use to reduce costs.

They can also help someone to manage from a distance, and that’s important when you are caring for an older parent – helping to reduce the stress of caring as well. Automatic meter readings and accurate bills can help to take a bit of admin pressure off. 73% of unpaid carers said a smart meter would help in their own home and 27% would think about asking their relative to get one.

That’s why every bit of help can make a difference. Carers need to be identified earlier in their caring journey by employers, the NHS and care services, by businesses and in their communities. The Carer’s Leave Act 2023 will see all GB employees with caring responsibilities gain the right to take up to five days of unpaid Carer’s Leave – helping more carers to stay in or return to work. But there’s more that can be done, including by parliamentarians raising awareness of unpaid carers’ needs in Parliament and their constituencies, and connecting carers and signposting them to support.

Two in three of us can expect to provide unpaid care for a loved one at some point in our lives. Let’s do what we can now to make the caring journey easier for everyone and ensure carers don’t have to put their lives on hold.


Further information to support unpaid carers can be found at www.carersuk.org and you can contact us at policy@carersuk.org

This content was kindly funded by Smart Energy GB

About Carers UK
Our mission is to make life better for carers. We provide information and advice on caring, help carers connect with each other, campaign with carers for lasting change, and use innovation to improve services. 

About Smart Energy GB
Smart Energy GB is the not-for-profit campaign supporting consumer awareness and understanding of the benefits of smart meters for Great Britain. To learn more, visit www.smartenergygb.org.

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