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Family carers are doing more care

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Caring for Carers, new report, Social Market Foundation, family carers, The state ‘cannot continue its increasing reliance on the family’.

The current social care system is putting pressure on families to step in and provide care for relatives where the state does not.

Such family care is an essential element of the current overall system of social care yet it is not often put at the centre of conversation about the care system.

A report, Caring for Carers, published by the Social Market Foundation on 16 July 2018, estimates that there are 7.6 million family carers over the age of 16 in the UK – and that the majority of family carers are women.

The report’s authors, Kathryn Petrie and James Kirkup, found that 16 per cent of women and 12 per cent of men provide family care.

There is a clear gender difference in family care: six in ten (59 per cent) carers are women. Over the last decade, the share of women providing care has increased by 11 per cent. The share of men providing care has increased by 3 per cent.

Failure to support working carers could lead to a reduction in the number of women in professional occupations, due to the link between providing family care and leaving the labour market.

Family carers are doing more care.

Among carers, the proportion providing 20 or more hours a week has increased from 24 per cent to 28 per cent between 2005 and 2015.

On average family carers provide 19.5 hours per week of care, which is equivalent to 149 million hours of care being provided each week in the UK.

That is equal to the work of 4 million full-time paid care-givers.

The only occupational social class where the proportion of women providing care rose was management/professionals: 19 per cent of women in professional jobs provide care, up from 18 per cent in 2005.

The proportion of women in “routine” occupations providing care fell, from 22 per cent to 21 per cent.

The report observes that:

There are more women with caring responsibilities in the professional and managerial occupations;

The number of hours of care that family carers provide is rising overall; and

The more hours of care a person provides, the more likely they are to reduce their hours of work or exit the workforce altogether.

The SMF report makes a number of recommendations for the Social Care Green Paper, several of which are aimed at “nudging” employers into offering more support for working carers. For example:

Employees should record the number of their staff who have caring responsibilities;

“Care pay gap” reporting could be required, where employers would publicly report the pay rates of staff with caring responsibilities and that of those of comparable staff without caring duties; and

Big employers should be required to publish policies for supporting workers who care. Surveys suggest only 40 per cent of large employers have policies setting out how managers should support carers.

The paper also suggests much greater use of “care navigators” to help family carers guide elderly relatives through the complex system of public sector bodies likely to be involved in their overall package of care.

The state, the report says, ‘cannot continue its increasing reliance on the family.

‘There is an ever-growing number of individuals ageing without children or for whom relying on their family for care is not an option.

‘We need to ensure that policy supports these individuals.

‘The report discusses the idea that a care navigator can seriously improve the lives of those providing family care and particularly help those without family.

‘Given that, we recommend that the Green Paper should seek submissions on the role, value and delivery of care navigation services, both for care recipients who receive family care and for those who do not’.

To read the full report, click here.

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