Take care: An Alcohol Concern Cymru project in partnership with NewLink Wales to support unpaid carers to avoid problems with alcohol

English | Cymraeg

19 May 2014

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Note: This report was written and/or funded by our predecessor organisation Alcohol Concern.

Introduction

There are an estimated 350,000 unpaid carers in Wales, and that number is set to increase with an ageing population and increasing prevalence of chronic illnesses. According to the Care Council for Wales, 96% of the care for vulnerable people in Wales is provided by unpaid family, friends and neighbours, and the Welsh Government states that 90,000 people in Wales regularly provide over 50 hours of unpaid care per week, i.e. far more than a standard working week. Many carers are effectively “at work” in their own homes 24 hours a day, with little free time or personal space. Stress, isolation and overwork are norms for a significant proportion.

Research carried out by Alcohol Concern in 2012 in partnership with local voluntary sector services for carers in Wales confirmed that carers face substantial and long-term pressures as a result of their caring role(s), and that around one in five say they use alcohol to cope with these pressures. Whilst alcohol can be an enjoyable and largely low-risk means to relax and socialise, its use to manage stress presents potential dangers in terms of developing unhealthy drinking patterns.

Chronic overuse of alcohol can seriously undermine physical and mental health, and despite being used as a coping mechanism, may well worsen the ability to cope overall. Alongside this, the all-consuming nature of the caring role often means that carers feel unable to seek help with alcohol problems – because their attention is focussed on the caree, or because they simply do not have time. It was also clear from our research that carers were reluctant to access mainstream alcohol services for a variety of reasons.

This project aimed to address these linked issues – to significantly improve the support and information for carers in Wales, in order to help them understand more about alcohol, manage their alcohol use if they drink, and avoid problems with alcohol. This was achieved primarily by training local voluntary sector carers’ services staff to provide targeted support that was relevant and accessible, and that acknowledged the particular needs and circumstances of carers. Our research indicated that many carers trust these voluntary sector services strongly, and often rely on them in preference to statutory services.