A major new report published today by Demos think tank calls for a radical new settlement between the state and informal carers, with current policy failing millions of carers across the UK.
Demos estimates there are now almost eight million informal carers in the UK – a staggering 35% increase since 2001. This means the informal care economy is now equivalent to £139bn – more than seven times the UK’s total annual spend on adult social care (£18bn) and as large as overall health spending in the UK. An ageing population and growing pressure on NHS services means these figures are likely to grow substantially in the coming years.
But the new research, The Carers’ Covenant, finds government policy has failed to keep pace with these changes, leaving too many carers without the support they need. Carer’s Allowance isn’t available to many in-work carers – despite more than half of carers working – and is paid at a significantly lower rate than other income-replacement benefits. A Universal Carer’s Income puts this right by extending financial support to over 2 million more carers and increasing payments to the same level as Jobseeker’s Allowance.
With the Government’s upcoming social care Green Paper and the potential for a shortage in social care staff post-Brexit, Demos argues now is the time for a Carers’ Covenant.
Based on the findings of the report, Demos is calling for:
- The Government to abolish the Carer’s Allowance and replace it with a new Universal Carer’s Income for all carers providing more than 35 hours a week of care, paid at the same rate as Jobseeker’s Allowance.
- The Government to introduce a Carer’s Working Credit – a pay top up for carers that go down to part-time hours. This is based on the German policy Familienpflegezeit which gives carers the right to request part-time working with better than part-time pay.
- The Government should work towards introducing one year’s paid care leave modelled on maternity pay, funded by abolishing the State Pension ‘triple lock’.
- Employees to have the right to 10 days of annual paid care leave.
- Duty should be placed on NHS bodies to identify carers and support their health and wellbeing.
Commenting on the report’s findings, the author, Demos Researcher Ben Glover said
“Unpaid carers prop up our entire social care system but have for decades been taken for granted by policy makers. A Universal Carer’s Allowance is a first step towards putting that right, laying the foundation for a new settlement between the state and the carer.”
Personal reflections from participants in the research:
“If you get Carer’s Allowance it dictates what you can make, what you can take. I feel, slightly, like they are penalising us for trying to take care for our family, and then trying to control how we do it. And it really alienates us”.
Male participant, London
“I spend my leave attending hospital appointments, psychiatric appointments. So my leave is swallowed up.”
Female participant, Leeds
“The worst thing with the employer was the immediate family thing because of my nan, I was brought up by my nan more than my mum so my nan is my mum and they didn’t get that, it was ‘it’s not your immediate family, it’s not your mum’. It’s like but it is, it really, like it kind of is.”
Female participant, Leeds
Download the full report.