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There is an urgent need for more accessible mental health support for carers across the UK, according to new research released today by Mobilise, a tech-for-good start-up established to transform the support available to UK carers, in partnership with Carers Trust.

The Reaching Out – A review of digital opportunities to support the mental health of carers report, which is based on a survey of carers centres across the country, reveals that too many carers are not receiving the support they need and their mental health is suffering as a result.

The country-wide study identified an immediate need for greater capacity in the system to support people looking after a loved one, with the most effective forms of support centred around building a sense of community and belonging. This was underpinned by tailored support, responding to the specific needs of a particular situation, and well-signposted and integrated partnerships with other agencies.

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Providing access to reliable and relevant information was also seen as central to the role of centres including the opportunity to use digital channels to extend the reach of centres and provide information and advice to a wider population.

In response to the findings, Mobilise is developing ways to use artificial intelligence to significantly increase the capacity of carers centres and other groups to provide support for carers. Its chat interface and marketplace will provide tailored information, guidance and access to a supportive community, to help the eight million carers in the UK.

Speaking about the research, James Townsend, Co-Founder of Mobilise, said: “This research has shown how vital it is to listen to carers and act on what they tell us makes a real difference to their lives. Too many people continue to struggle on their own and are missing out on much-needed information and advice.

“As the number of carers continues to rise, it’s thought that one in three of us will become a carer at some point in our lives.

“At Mobilise our mission is to ensure all carers receive the support they need to look after their loved one and themselves in the best way possible. We are exploring how well-crafted technology could be a game-changer on this journey and are inviting carers and partners to join our movement by sharing their stories and experiences. This will ultimately help us transform the experiences of the next generation of carers.”

The new report follows a host of research suggesting that carers in the UK experience considerably higher levels of both mental and physical ill health.

The interviews with carer centres as part of the study highlighted how without the contribution of carers, many people with additional needs would be unable to manage.

Yet despite this, the research revealed that many carers do not recognise, or are reluctant to call themselves carers, making it difficult for them to access the support they vitally need to cope now and in the future.

Speaking about her struggle as a carer to her son who experienced substance abuse for 20 years, Ruth, who took part in the Mobilise study, commented: “You can’t eat, you can’t sleep, you’re worried about making mistakes at work. I couldn’t have my son at home any more. He used to steal my car and my money. I felt like a failure because I couldn’t cope.

“We struggled to get the support we needed from the GP and other agencies. I started taking sleeping tablets and anti-depressants to get me through. I was finally told to go to the carer centre by a support worker and get some help. It was the first time I had ever been asked to think about myself. I completed a five-week programme run by the carer centre and this was a life changing experience for me.”

Kathryn Hill, Director of England at Carers Trust, said: “Unpaid carers tell us that without the right support, they experience high levels of stress. This stress rises when they have to find their way, on their own, through a complicated system to get the right help for those they care for.

“Local carers centres are already at the forefront of delivering high quality services that support carers. They are also working in partnership to develop innovative new services, such as those highlighted in this report, to deliver increased support and opportunities for carers. Ultimately, this will reduce carers’ isolation and loneliness and improve their mental health. Carers Trust are proud to have been involved in the development of this report by Mobilise.”

The report was made possible by a partnership of the Wellcome Trust, in collaboration with Bethnal Green Venture, Zinc and Big Society Capital as part of a programme to explore how to better bring together research and early stage ventures tackling mental health.

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