Three in 10 unpaid carers are struggling to make ends meet, while more than half are worried about their finances, research suggests.
Providing unpaid care is pushing thousands of families into poverty and will have a lasting impact on their finances and quality of life, Carers UK has warned.
More than half (52%) of unpaid carers surveyed by the charity said they feel anxious or stressed about their finances, while 31% are struggling to make ends meet, and 24% report not having enough to cover their monthly expenses.
A further 18% are in or have been in debt due to their caring responsibilities, and 6% cannot afford basic bills such as electricity, gas and water.
Of those struggling to make ends meet, 24% are eating into their savings, 14% are relying on credit cards and 12% are borrowing money from family and friends.
Carers UK polled 8,119 unpaid carers between August and September for its latest report, The State Of Caring 2021.
The research found that almost two-thirds (63%) of those questioned said they are using their own savings or income to cover the cost of care, equipment and products for the person they look after.
This amounts to £1,370 on average a year, the charity said.
More than a third (36%) of carers said their financial situation has deteriorated during the coronavirus pandemic.
Almost two-thirds of respondents (63%) said they are now spending more on household bills, shopping and everyday items than before the pandemic, while 25% are spending more on equipment for the person they care for.
This financial burden is making it harder for unpaid carers to put aside money, with around two-thirds (65%) worried about their ability to save and plan for the future.
A fifth (21%) fear they may not be able to cope financially over the next year.
One respondent told the charity: “One of my biggest caring tasks is endlessly juggling money, bills and moving stuff around so we can get by.”
Another said: “I don’t have luxuries, can’t afford life, car insurance or house insurance.
“At 60 I shouldn’t be using food banks and made to feel inadequate because I can’t afford petrol.”
The report said: “Carers across all income brackets are worried about the impact of caring on their finances and the impact of caring on their ability to save.
“A significant proportion of carers are struggling to make ends meet and are turning to unsustainable solutions to manage financially, such as accruing debt or cutting back on things that are integral to their wellbeing.
“As we enter a winter with high levels of inflation, food and fuel shortages and increasing energy prices, more and more carers will likely struggle to cope.”
The financial worries are on top of carers’ “deep concern” about practical support, with just 13% confident they will get what they need over the next year.
And it comes as unpaid carers have taken on increased hours during the pandemic as services were restricted and remain reduced.
Carers UK chief executive Helen Walker said unpaid carers have propped up the health and care system for years “at a huge cost” to their own health and finances and now “desperately” need support.
She said: “We are seeing unprecedented levels of stress where financial worry is piling yet more pressure on carers.
“With low levels of services, carers are going to be facing an extremely difficult winter with the rising costs of living, increased energy prices, a social care staffing crisis and a chronically underfunded system.”
The charity said the Government should raise the level of carers’ benefits and explore introducing an additional payment for carers over state pension age.
Liz Kendall, Labour’s shadow social care minister, said: “At the same time that families are being hit with the highest tax burden in 70 years, and hundreds of people are being forced to quit paid work or reduce their hours every day to look after elderly or disabled relatives, it is no wonder that over half of unpaid carers are feeling anxious or stressed about their finances.”
A Government spokesperson said: “We recognise the valuable role of unpaid carers and since 2010 we have increased carer’s allowance putting an additional £700 a year in carers’ pockets.
“We remain committed to helping them financially, along with their health, wellbeing and employment chances, and those in receipt of carer’s allowance may be entitled to other support, including benefits.”