Page last updated at 23:54 GMT, Sunday, 7 June 2009 00:54 UK

Most carers 'hit breaking point'

Carer with person in wheelchair
The public values carers alongside the emergency services, a poll has found

The pressure of being a carer has forced three out of four of them to "breaking point", according to a poll.

The survey of 1,941 unpaid carers found 74% said they had been stretched to their limits by caring for someone.

Frustration with the bureaucracy of accessing NHS care and benefits was the most common reason they cited as forcing them to breaking point.

The study was carried out by a partnership of 10 UK care charities ahead of this week's Carers Week.

Learning difficulties

The poll also found the burden of the role was so great that some people have had breakdowns and others attempted suicide.

One carer, who only gave her name as Michelle, looks after her 19-year-old son who has autism, epilepsy and learning difficulties.

She says she has struggled for years to receive basic support from her local social services and housing department.

"The stress and difficulty of caring with no support has made me feel suicidal and only knowing no-one would care for my son made me not carry this through," she said.

Carers face physical and mental challenges every day and should be more visibly supported and appreciated
Sir Geoff Hurst

A separate YouGov survey of 2,000 people found the public rates carers alongside the emergency services for their contribution to society.

Some 86% said carers made a valuable contribution to society, behind only nurses (91%) and firefighters (90%).

The poll also found 76% of the public believed the Carer's Allowance of £53.10 per-week was an unreasonable amount to support carers who are unable to work because of their responsibilities.

Former England footballer Sir Geoff Hurst said there was too little recognition of the indispensible work that they do.

"Those who care for family and friends mostly do so under the radar, without pay or acknowledgement, and deserve to be recognised for their dedication to the people they care for, not just during Carers Week but for all the weeks of the year," he said.

"Carers face physical and mental challenges every day and should be more visibly supported and appreciated for the generous and loving hard work that they do."

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