Unpaid carers are feeling increasingly socially isolated, stressed, depressed and not encouraged or supported in their roles, new NHS figures show.

A survey from NHS Digital has found that fewer carers have received support from social service departments in the last year, and fewer carers have been able to take a break from caring for more than 24 hours.

The Survey of Adult Carers in England runs every two years, but the 2020-21 survey was postponed by a year due to the coronavirus pandemic, so the most recent time period to compare the latest findings to is 2018-19.

Researchers analysed responses from 43,525 unpaid adult carers who were known to their council and caring for an adult.

They found that the proportion of carers who feel they have as much social contact as they want, with people they like, has been in “steady decline” over the years and fell “more profoundly” in 2021-22.

News and Star: Carers were reporting little not no social contact in their lives (PA)Carers were reporting little not no social contact in their lives (PA)

Back in 2018-19 32.5% of carers felt this was the case, dropping to 28% in the latest survey.

Over the same period, the proportion of carers reporting little social contact and feeling socially isolated increased from 17.4% to 20.9%.

There was also a fall in carers saying they are able to spend their time as they want, doing things they value or enjoy (17.3% in 2018-19 to 16.2% in 2021-22).

Some 18.3% said they do not do anything they value or enjoy with their time.

NHS Digital said the impact of the pandemic should be considered in relation to these responses.

Charities say the number of unpaid carers has fallen since the peak in the pandemic, but that caring hours and responsibilities have intensified.

They say this could be down to factors including many services remaining reduced or closed, vulnerable people continuing to shield, and a chronic shortage of social care.

The survey found that carers reported taking fewer breaks and receiving less support or encouragement in their role.

Helen Walker, chief executive of Carers UK, said: “This report confirms what so many unpaid carers have told us. That they are at breaking point, exhausted after more than two years of little or no outside support and an increasing sense of isolation.

“This is clearly impacting on their sense of value, their mental and physical wellbeing.

“We are calling on the Government to implement an urgent ‘Recovery and Respite’ plan, including breaks, desperately needed respite and care services, identification of carers, financial help, and support to juggle work and care.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Carers play a vital role in our communities, and we have set out in a white paper our aim to empower unpaid carers to live happy, healthy, and fulfilling lives.

“We are making available an additional £3.7 billion to councils compared to last year, having already set aside over £285 million last year to provide short breaks and respite services for carers, as well as additional advice and support.”