Carers face financial crisis

Rising costs and difficult economic times are adding to the financial pressure on carers, a new survey suggests.

Carers UK, the membership organisation for carers, carried out the survey this autumn.

The survey found that:

* Nine in ten (86%) carers say their financial position is worse than 12 months ago;

* Half of all carers are cutting back on food just to make ends meet, more than double the rate only a year ago (52% in 2008 compared to 19% in 2007);

* 32% of those paying a rent or mortgage say they cannot afford to pay it;

* Three quarters (74%) are struggling to pay utility bills – up from 33% last year, with 65% in fuel poverty (paying more than 10% of their income on fuel bills);

* 78% cannot afford essential repairs to the home – a situation less than one third found themselves in last year.

Commenting on the findings Imelda Redmond, Chief Executive, of Carers UK said: “The appallingly low level of Carer’s Allowance, worth only £50.55 per week, is only making life even harder for Britain’s carers. They are being stretched to the limit by the current economic situation.

“Carers have higher costs than everyone else and yet they have fewer opportunities to increase their income through employment.

“The irony of this appalling situation is that our economy and our communities depend heavily on the care provided by carers – worth a staggering £87 billion a year.

“We must support carers more and not force them into financial hardship as a result of their caring role.”

Carers UK are urging carers to get in touch with them to ensure that they are receiving all the entitlements they are due. For more information please visit:

                    Issue of coerced medication requires more research

A review published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing has stated that more research into the highly controversial practice of forcing patients to take medication should be undertaken.

The review found that patients receiving coerced medication (CM) are more likely to be in their thirties with a diagnosis of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder (or another psychotic disorder) and to have been admitted to psychiatric care on an involuntary basis.

“It is clear from our review that there is little clinical evidence on the use of CM and more research is needed to examine all aspects of this contentious practice,” says Manuela Jarrett, a registered mental health nurse from the Health Service and Population Research Department at the Institute of Psychiatry in London.

Jarrett, who co-authored the paper with Professor Len Bowers and Dr Alan Simpson from City University London, carried out a detailed analysis of 14 papers from seven countries, published between 1987 and 2004.

These studies included interviews with 543 patients and 263 staff and analysis of 1,165 forms and records from the UK, USA, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Canada and Denmark.

“Perceived risk to others emerged as an important factor in the decision by staff to give a patient CM. But although half the researchers interviewed patients about their views on receiving CM, they didn’t ask them whether they perceived themselves to be a risk to their self or others at the time when CM was administered,” added Jarrett.

“The studies showed that patients experienced a range of negative feelings when they received CM, including fear, embarrassment, anger and helplessness. Despite this, many said that they retrospectively agreed with the practice.”

Coerced medication is used more often in the UK than in other countries where other forms of restraint are more common.

         Report points to high rate of mental illness in Scottish prisons

A shortage of services for offenders with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and other serious mental health conditions is increasing reoffending in Scotland according to Dr Andrew McLellan, the Chief Inspector of Prisons for the country.

His report, Out of Sight, which was published this week, followed the largest review of the treatment of prisoners with severe and enduring mental health problem.

It found that at least 315 prisoners have severe mental health problems – 4.5 per cent of the prison population and four times the level among the general public.

Consequently, the report recommended that prisoners with a mental health problem should be treated in hospital, rather than sent to prison, where they are sometimes placed in solitary confinement because there is nowhere else to put them, making their illness worse.

The report also singled out a lack of support for mentally ill prisoners when they are released from prison.

Dr Andrew Fraser, the director of health and care at the Scottish Prison Service, said: “A lot of people with severe mental health problems should not get as far as the prison gate – they should be going to the secure hospital estate.”