A NEW report has shown that unpaid carers in Swindon looking after a family member, partner or friend, save the economy an estimated £592 million per year.

The Valuing Carers research, released by the charity Carers UK and the Centre for Care at the University of Sheffield, is based on data from the 2021 Census results.

Carers in Swindon are now providing more hours of care resulting in a 43 per cent increase in the economic value of that care since the last census in 2011.

This means that people like Julia, 60, from Blundson who looks after her mum Shelia, 86, who is living with dementia, are contributing to the town in more ways than just caring for a loved one.

Shelia is unable to remember other family members and relies on Julia as a daily reference point so Julia’s caring role is 24/7 which is physically and mentally challenging.

For the past three years she has provided emotional and practical support to complete everyday tasks such as dressing, washing, eating, cleaning and taking medication.

“It’s a big responsibility as a carer to know that you’re doing the right thing,” said Julia.

“We’ve got into a routine, but it’s very hard work, I’m not going to deny it. 24/7 is… how can you explain it? You don’t relax, there is no on/off switch, it’s all the time.

“You do it because you love them, you wouldn’t do it otherwise. My mum was there for me and now it’s her turn to be looked after.”

In England and Wales, carers contribute £162 billion in economic value – a figure that, when compared with health service spending, is the equivalent of a second NHS.

In Swindon, 18,315 unpaid carers contribute care worth just over £32,320 per year, the equivalent of a band 5 NHS nurse with two to four years’ experience.

Data from the 2021 Census shows that the proportion of unpaid carers providing 20 hours care a week or more in Swindon has increased noticeably.

In 2021, just under 1 in 50 people (1.8 per cent) reported providing between 20 and 49 hours of unpaid care each week, compared with 1.4 per cent in 2011.

The proportion of Swindon residents providing at least 50 hours of weekly unpaid care increased from 2.5 per cent to 2.6 per cent.

The Census results also show a negative correlation between peoples’ health and the number of hours spent caring for someone. Just under 62 per cent of people in Swindon providing unpaid care for 50 hours a week or more rated their health as ‘very good or good’, compared to 83 per cent of people with no caring responsibilities.

Charity Swindon Carers Centre works to improve the wellbeing of people with caring responsibilities.

Its services, for carers of all ages, include a Carer Support Line, 1:1 support, welfare and benefits advice, as well as a varied groups and activities programme offering the opportunity for time out and peer support.

Susanna Jones, chief executive for the organisation, said: “Recognition for carers is vital.

“Unpaid carers make huge sacrifices to care, and if the person they are looking after did not have their carers’ support, they would likely need help from elsewhere in the health and social care system.

“What’s staggering is that the report’s £592 million figure is likely to be an underestimation.

"There will be many people who don’t necessarily realise they’re a carer or didn’t include themselves in the census, which is why it’s hugely important to raise awareness.

“We have specialist teams to support carers from 5 years upwards, so if you’re caring for a friend or family member who due to an illness, disability, a mental health condition or addiction cannot cope without your support, please get in touch to register with us.”