24 Jun 2020
Our Associate Director for Work, Kim Chaplain, explains how the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of carers and the challenges they face managing caring responsibilities with a job.
This week is Carers Week in the UK – the annual campaign to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges unpaid carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities. The impact of COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of carers but also how tricky managing caring responsibilities with a job can be. The Centre for Ageing Better has released a new report which looks at the barriers facing carers trying to get back into work.
According to figures from Carers UK, no fewer than one in five people aged 50-64 is a carer. And estimates suggest that at least a million workers aged between 50 and 64 are out of work involuntarily, with caring responsibilities one of the primary reasons why. The aim of The Working Potential Insight project was to better understand the unique support older jobseekers with caring responsibility need and the contribution these carers are making to their community.
It will be easier to tackle the challenge at a local level via devolved budgets than through a national programme.
With more of us living for longer, more and more people are likely to be caring for a loved one in the years to come – so it’s vital that we can ensure they get the support they need and aren’t forced out of work in the long term. We already know that traditional employment programmes fail to provide the support older jobseekers need and, in a post-COVID world of high unemployment, it is even more likely that older carers could lose out even more – unless there is a change in the approach.
The advent of devolved administrations may provide an opportunity to do something better – it will be easier to tackle the challenge at a local level via devolved budgets than through a national programme. Local leaders will already understand the contribution carers make to their local economy and the risk to wider services such as adult social care if these people start to fail. As a result, a more effective approach might be to consider innovative commissioning models, such as a social impact bond or simply blending public funding into a single pot that recognises the wider outcomes that can be achieved through the interventions outlined in this report.
Never has there been a more crucial time to get this right. With the anticipated tsunami of unemployment that is likely to follow phasing out of furloughing, my hope is that we do not lose sight of the new respect we have gained for those people who care for others. Local commissioners must build back better by providing specialist programmes aimed at supporting jobseekers with caring responsibilities, for a group that saves the taxpayer an estimated £132 billion per year.