"Caregivers are treated as second-class citizens compared to those whom they support, yet if we don't provide them with the right support they are unable to carry on with their caring responsibilities," Paul Burstow, the care services minister, told The Daily Telegraph. "One of the things I want to do is to place the rights of carers on a much firmer footing, so that the law recognizes carers' rights and their role in caring for others."
A white paper on reforming caregiving said an estimated 1.25 million people in Britain spend more than 50 hours each week caring for family members who need care with daily living tasks and research has shown that caregivers suffer financially because many have to quit work, emotionally because the work is draining, and physically because they lose sleep and are continually stressed to the point many suffer DNA damage.
Experts have long stated that state-sponsored healthcare services would face collapse if government had to cope with the elderly and disabled, the white paper said.
Burstow suggested physicians consider prescribing short breaks for caregivers.
"This sort of social prescribing is a great way of giving a caregiver a break rather than picking up the pieces once they've had a breakdown," Burstow told the Telegraph.
However, several from non-profit groups that deal with caregiving issues said how well this program would work depends on how those currently being cared for by family would be cared for during the caregiver's break and how it would be paid.