- Over half of unpaid carers say that both the time spent on, and the cost of caregiving has increased in the last 12 months
- 54 per cent are spending less quality time with those they look after in place of task-led care
- By contrast, 84 per cent believe that spending quality time together is important
- In response, 71% of unpaid carers want to find ways to reduce chores and spend more time with the person they care for
Over half (53 per cent) of unpaid carers have reported an increase in costs and added pressure on the amount of time they dedicate to caregiving in the past year.
There are millions of unpaid carers in GB, the majority of whom are people looking after a relative or friend who is older, disabled or seriously ill. In a survey of 500 unpaid caregivers, 43 per cent reported spending between 16-40 hours a week looking after someone else, on top of their own responsibilities and jobs.
As the cost-of-living crisis continues, 16 per cent have also reported spending an extra £200 per month on care, with some experiencing a rise of up to £400 per month. The biggest increases have been in food (77 per cent), closely followed by energy bills (65 per cent) and for the majority (83 per cent) this is causing extra stress.
More than six in ten revealed they now spend more time helping with day-to-day tasks for the person they care for than spending quality time with them. This, despite 84 per cent saying quality time together is important.
With seven in ten unpaid carers agreeing that reducing time spent on day-to-day tasks would be helpful, Smart Energy GB is highlighting the small ways a smart meter could make life a bit easier for caregivers.
Phillippa Brown from Smart Energy GB said:
“Many of us know how time-consuming caregiving can be, and unpaid carers are consistently going above and beyond to help a loved one. Spending quality time with the person they care for is clearly important to unpaid carers, but their time is being squeezed. We want to shine a light on the small ways getting a smart meter installed at no additional cost for someone else could give carers some time back.”
“Having a smart meter means no more poking around under the stairs or up a ladder trying to take and submit a meter reading as readings are sent automatically. Smart meters also provide accurate bills, not estimates, so unpaid carers can spend less time sorting out energy admin, and more time with the person they look after.”
A week in the life of the average unpaid carer involves helping the person they care for use the bathroom 12 times, administering nine medications - and making 11 cups of tea or coffee. More than one in four carers change sheets multiple times a week.
Currently, 45 per cent of carers report checking the billing accuracy for those they care for, 41 per cent arrange for their energy bills to be paid, and 35 per cent send meter readings to suppliers on behalf of the person they care for. Nearly half (48 per cent) of carers also monitored the energy use of the person they care for more frequently in the last year.
Installing a smart meter for the person being cared for can really help with these tasks by providing accurate meter readings to the supplier and an in-home display that shows electricity and gas usage and costs in near-real time. In fact, Smart Energy GB’s research shows that nearly 9 in 10 (89 per cent) of people with a smart meter find their in-home display useful.
Joe (30) from Leeds is helping his mother-in-law improve energy efficiency in her home since the installation of a new boiler. Joe has been using a smart meter with an in-home display for four years, finding it useful for managing energy use. He recommended a smart meter to his mother-in-law and helped her to get one installed, allowing them both to monitor her energy use. Joe now has more quality time to spend chatting with his mother-in-law about her seven kids.
Madeleine Starr MBE, Director of Business Development and Innovation at Carers UK, said:
“Supporting loved ones who are older, disabled or seriously ill, unpaid carers often have a long list of practical and administrative tasks they need to get through each month, when they would rather be spending quality time with their loved ones. Within this long list, arranging and paying for bills can be an additional source of stress.
"Getting a smart meter installed for a relative receiving care may help lighten the admin load and give you more control and visibility of their energy use. Small efficiencies like these to make caring easier - like not having to read the meter or worry about the accuracy of energy bills - could make a difference for some.”
Contact your energy supplier to request a smart meter at no extra cost for you and the person you care for, or visit our carers page on our website.
Notes to editors
The research was carried out by One Poll for Smart Energy GB and surveyed 500 UK adults who are unpaid carers, between the 10th and 15th of February 2023.
About smart meters and the rollout
Smart meters are the next generation of digital gas and electricity meters, providing automatic meter readings and near-real time energy use information for households.
Smart meters and the information they provide will help Britain to achieve net zero by allowing for better management of energy demand and supply, providing people with the visibility needed to reduce their usage, and making the best and most efficient use of wind and solar power. Innovative technology and services enabled by smart metering is pivotal in allowing our country to decarbonise and have more electric vehicles.
Smart meters are available from energy suppliers at no extra cost, and the accompanying in-home display shows energy use in pounds and pence. Up to the end of September 2022, 30.3 million smart and advanced meters have already been installed in homes and small businesses across Britain.
About Smart Energy GB
Smart Energy GB is the independent, non-profit, government-backed organisation that helps
households and small businesses across Great Britain to understand how smart meters can benefit them, their families and the environment.
We do this by working collaboratively with a wide range of stakeholders including charities and voluntary organisations to reach people throughout the country, including those in vulnerable circumstances, who may otherwise miss out on the opportunity to get a smart meter.
Our campaign explains the impact that having a smart meter installed has, including helping the country to build a more reliable and affordable energy system, and how the accompanying in-home display can help you take control of your energy use and manage your household budget.
Smart Energy GB media contacts
For more information including interview requests, case studies of smart meter users, infographics, photography and video content please contact the Smart Energy GB media team: [email protected]