From education to employment

Keep carers in work to save UK £6 billion a year, government urged

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  • 2 in 5 working age carers say they will quit their day job or reduce their hours this year because of their caring responsibilities.
  • 3 in 5 unpaid carers say that their care duties currently prevent them from taking up paid work or as much paid work as they’d like to.

A ground-breaking survey of family carers commissioned by the Centre for Social Justice think tank, conducted by Opinium, found that as many as 41% are thinking of leaving the workplace, or reducing their hours, within the next 12 months because they are struggling to combine looking after their older or disabled relative with the demands of holding down their job.

Nearly 400,000 family carers have left paid employment to look after a disabled or older person in the year 2021-22.

Yet the majority of family carers want to be in paid employment.

Two thirds of those not currently in full time work (65%) say they would take up paid employment if they could.

Three in five (59%) say they would take up paid work with the right support in place. Almost seven in ten (69%) part-time workers say they would increase their hours.

Government must act: the exodus of family carers from paid employment could cost the Treasury an alarming £6 billion in lost taxes and extra benefits payments.

Family carers are key to addressing economic inactivity.

But spouses, children, parents and siblings who look after a family member who is older or with disabilities don’t just contribute to the economy. They reduce pressure on social services and the NHS to the tune of £162 billion a year – almost the entire annual NHS budget. 

We owe these unsung heroes an enormous debt of gratitude.

‘Creating a Britain that Works and Cares’, a new report by the Centre for Social Justice, the leading think tank for family policy, urges ministers to give these admirable men and women the support they deserve.

The Centre for Social Justice report warns that “in too many cases, the family carer is forced to forego or reduce paid employment” due to the uncertainty that many face in losing out on benefits, entitlements and opportunities.

The polling commissioned by the CSJ, and conducted by Opinium, found that family carers would return to work, or increase their hours, with the “right support” in place:

  • 40 per cent of respondents not in paid employment would go back to work if their employers were to grant them five days’ paid leave to support  their caring responsibilities
  • 40 per cent of respondents not in paid employment would go back to work if the Carer’s Allowance had a higher earnings threshold  
  • 40 per cent of respondents not in paid employment would go back to work if those they cared for would receive 10 hours free domiciliary care a week
  • 33 per cent of respondents say more generous home adaptations would support them back into work or enable them to work more.

Commenting, Andy Burnham, Mayor of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, said: 

“An effective strategy to address economic inactivity must support the nearly 400,000 individuals who have left employment due to caring responsibilities. Thanks to these selfless individuals, hospital discharge can be completed more quickly, the number of A&E calls and need for residential care is reduced, as is the pressure on council budgets. We cannot take them for granted.” 

Cristina Odone, Head of Family at the Centre for Social Justice said:

“The social care crisis is pushing family carers out of the workforce.  New polling for the CSJ by Opinium reveals more than 40 per cent of family carers may leave their jobs or cut hours within the next 12 months due to caring responsibilities. Their exodus from work could cost the Treasury some £6 billion in lost taxes and extra benefits payments.”

Commenting, Po Ki, a carer for her disabled adult son, said:

“It is my responsibility and my privilege to look after my son but I think it is too much to ask of us parents to also take on the authorities for support.

The CSJ recommend four key policies to support and incentivise working-age carers to enter, return to, or remain in the labour force:

  • Deliver 10 hours of free home care to those they are looking after
  • Deliver £2000 free adaptations to make the homes of those they care for safer and more accessible
  • Raise the earnings threshold for Carer’s Allowance from £139 to £250 a week     
  • Employers should grant carers in their workplace five days paid leave

Catherine Foot, Director of Phoenix Insights said:

“Unpaid carers play a hugely significant role in our society but lack adequate support. Around one in seven employees are carers and face balancing work commitments with caring responsibilities. This leaves some reducing their working hours while others are forced out of work altogether to look after loved ones. Being forced to take time out of work can mean carers are more at risk of being financially disadvantaged near term and may struggle to save for their retirement in the future. Furthermore, they often face challenges in re-entering the workplace.

“Economic inactivity is sitting at near-record highs in the UK, so we can’t overlook unpaid carers if we are going to address the issues in our labour market. An effective strategy must support carers to remain in work for as long as they want or need to and help them navigate the competing demands they face.”

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