Page last updated at 18:00 GMT, Tuesday, 22 April 2008 19:00 UK

Concerns over support for carers

Heather Wardle and James Hughes
Ms Wardle disappeared along with her son James Hughes
The learning disability charity Mencap has said there are concerns over the amount of support carers receive.

It was speaking on the day a body found in woodland in Worcestershire was confirmed to be that of a mother who disappeared on the same day as her vulnerable son.

Heather Wardle, 39, from Redditch, and James Hughes, 22 on Sunday, went missing on Friday. James often uses a wheelchair and has the mental age of an 18-month-old child.

Though Mencap is not able to comment on individual cases it said there was a "real concern" over support for carers bringing up disabled children.

'Emotional pressure'

Head of campaigns and policy for Mencap David Congdon said: "If you're working hard during the day looking after them and then to have disturbed nights, night after night, you need a break from time to time.

"It can be very, very demanding. They are happy to do it, but they want help, which relieves the emotional pressure and gives some space.

"If you want to go out for an evening, it's a military operation.

"To fight for every bit of support from their local authority makes it even more draining."

The charity Carers UK said carers might be working, providing care, managing professionals providing back-up care, filling in forms, attending medical appointments and getting equipment.

Heather Wardle and her partner Brian Kirby
The body of Ms Wardle, pictured with her partner, was found in woodland

It said it can be difficult keeping up with family, friends and hobbies.

And for parents of children with a severe disability, it can be much harder to find the right person to provide respite care, the charity added.

Senior policy officer Kate Groucutt said: "With the carers' health, there's a possibility that people may ignore their own problems, because they worry what would happen if they went to hospital.

"Often there's the additional worry of who would look after their child if they died."

The charity, which is also a campaign group, said the carers' allowance, the main benefit for carers from the government, was 50.55 a week.

Its research of 3,000 carers last year showed 72% were worse off after becoming a carer, and 62% of carers said they often worried about finances.

'Pretty stressed'

The senior policy officer added: "It makes it difficult for carers to combine work and care, because there is a 95 per week earnings limit to receive a carers' allowance.

"It traps carers in low-paid part-time jobs, when it should be helping them to enhance their career if they want to.

"There's a real link between worrying about finances and the impact on health.

"If people are worrying all of the time, they're going to be pretty stressed."

Carers UK said the 2001 Census showed there were 6m carers in the UK with 3m of those working, and the charity calculates there would be 9m by 2037.

Of the 6m across the country, 58% were women and 42% men.

The charity estimates three in five people will be a carer at some point in their lives.

It added the government is currently reviewing its national strategy for carers, with a report expected in late spring or early summer.

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SEE ALSO
Mother's body found in woodland
22 Apr 08 |  Hereford/Worcs

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