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Research published: 20 October 2011

There are around six million carers in the UK - one of the largest groups of workers in the country.

Recent research shows that the care provided by friends and family members to ill, frail or disabled relatives is now worth £119 billion every year1.

Carers often work long hours, with no training or support, and may only receive £55.55 a week (April 2011 rate) in Carer's Allowance benefit - on an average five day working week, this equals just £1.58 per hour. As a result many carers find themselves in financial difficulty and struggling to pay for their living expenses.

In recent years the cost of fuel bills has significantly increased, making winter a particularly difficult time for those with limited incomes. 

To understand the financial burden faced by UK carers, the Policy and Research team carried out a survey looking at the pressures faced by carers during the colder months. 

Key findings

Of the carers surveyed:

  • 66% struggled to pay their bills (in winter 2010/11)
  • 42% faced debt as a result of their 2010 energy costs
  • 92% had concerns about being able to pay increasingly high energy bills  
  • 21% owed around £600 as a direct result of covering fuel bills
  • 29% were unable to turn on their heating last winter for 14 days or more
  • 25% attempted to cut costs by heating only one room in their home
  • 42% wore extra clothes to bed in order to keep fuel costs down
  • 87% of carers felt that high fuel costs have caused their physical health to suffer
  • 36% of carers experience significantly more physical pain in the winter 
  • 81% of those surveyed feel stressed about the high cost of heating their homes.

Way forward

By carrying out this survey, we hope to highlight the difficulties carers face and influence those that can make a difference to their lives. We aim to show policy makers and others interested in carers' issues that the current level of assistance through welfare benefits is clearly not enough and more needs to be done. Also, by understanding the needs of carers, we can develop the help we give to them.

Alison Taylor, Director of Turn2us says: “Carers dedicate themselves to the incredibly demanding role of caring for ill or disabled relatives or friends.  We urge carers to ensure that they check their welfare benefit entitlement, together with which grant-giving funds may be available to them by using the Turn2us service at” 

Further information

If you are a carer, see also our information section for people who are caring for someone


  1. Carers UK
  2. Please note:  All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from a survey conducted by Elizabeth Finn Care in 2011, in consultation with Carers UK.  The Carers Federation posted our survey to hundreds of their members.  The Princess Royal Trust hosted a link on the website to our survey, so we can be assured that those who participated are genuine carers.  The total sample size for the survey was 735 carers.

Last updated: 4 February 2015