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Rising numbers of people are becoming carers

Half of women will be carers by age 46

Adrian O'Dowd

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Growing numbers of people are becoming unpaid carers in the UK with the average person just as likely to be a carer as a homeowner, according to a report published today.

Figures released to coincide with Carers Rights Day today show that two thirds of UK adults can expect to care unpaid for a loved one in their lifetime.

The charity Carers UK published an analysis by the universities of Sheffield and Birmingham of data from 2001 to 2018 which shows that almost two thirds (65%) of adults have cared unpaid for a loved one – a similar proportion to those who own their own home (64%).

For the charity’s report 'Will I Care?'' researchers analysed data from individuals who had participated in both the British Household Panel Survey and Understanding Society social and economic study for more than 15 years between 1991 and 2018.

They also found that on average, women could expect to take on caring responsibilities over a decade earlier than men.

Half of women would care by the age of 46, compared to half of men who could expect to care at 57. Women had a 70% chance of becoming a carer and men 60%.

Carers UK said this meant that women were especially likely to care during their working life, highlighting the need for employers to support their employees to stay in work by adopting flexible working practices and a right of five to 10 days of paid care leave.

Helen Walker, chief executive of Carers UK, said: “Many of us don’t expect to become an unpaid carer but the reality is two in three of us will do it in our lifetimes.

“Our research shows women are disproportionately affected, facing difficult decisions about their loved ones’ health, family finances and how best to combine paid work and care more than a decade earlier than men.

“The next government has to make sure this ‘gender care gap’ is addressed by giving carers a right of five to 10 days of paid care leave. It must also prioritise sustainable, long-term investment in our social care system so that millions of people caring for loved ones can stay in work and look after their own health.”

The charity said it was urging all political parties to commit to delivering long-term investment in social care so that millions of people can look after loved ones without putting their lives on hold.

It was also calling on all parties to better recognise carers within public services, including placing a legal duty on the NHS to identify carers and promote their health and wellbeing.

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