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Tuesday, 18 September, 2001, 23:35 GMT 00:35 UK
'Number of carers set to double'
The proportion of elderly is expected to rise significantly
A new study is warning that the UK is sitting on a demographic "time bomb" with the number of people caring for the sick and elderly likely to double in the next 40 years.

The report - Could It Be You - says that three out of five people will eventually end up caring for someone who is chronically sick or disabled.

The study concluded that Britain's ageing population, coupled with current community care policy, will mean that by 2037 nearly an extra 3.5m carers will be needed to cope with an estimated 3m increase in people over the age of 75.

The report by the charity Carers UK said this could have "significant" economic and social consequences on the UK as a whole.

The welcome fact people are living longer has to be prepared for

Diana Whitworth
Carers UK

It said: "Unless the amount of formal care increases dramatically, the pressure on individuals to become carers will increase substantially.

"This could have a significant effect on how families manage to maintain paid employment, provide for their pensions and the time they have to spend with their children."

'Condemned to poverty'

Carers UK's chief executive Diana Whitworth said many of the UK's 5.7 million carers were forced to cut back on essentials such as meals and heating in order to survive.

"Anyone can become a carer and most of us will - in some cases overnight.

"But without adequate support, our whole system of community care will collapse and an impossible burden will fall on the NHS," Ms Whitworth said.

The study found the chances of someone aged between 30 and 54 being a carer for someone older will increase by nearly 90% by 2037.

It called for a review of the benefits available to carers which it said condemned many to lives of poverty.

A Department of Health spokesman said the government was committed to making sure carers got the help they deserved.

He said: "We know that carers need breaks from their caring role and that breaks reduce stress.

"This is why the carers grant has been extended from three years."

The money put aside to support carers would be increased by 30m by the financial year 2003-2004, the spokesman added.

The BBC's Jane Warr
"Many of Britain's 5.7 million carers are forced to cut back on essentials"
See also:

14 Mar 00 | Health
'Carers suffering more illness'
08 Feb 99 | Health
Funds 'to care for the carers'
04 Mar 99 | Health
Health burden of young carers
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