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Mind the gap

Who cares about the carers?

Carers are in the spotlight this week and rightly so. 6.5 million people in the UK care, unpaid, for a disabled, older or ill family member or friend.

There are also a significant number of people caring for someone in retirement – 1.3million people in England and Wales aged 65+ are carers.*

Caring is an issue which will touch most of us, with three in five people becoming carers at some point in their lives. Whilst many care for their loved ones willingly, it is not hard to imagine some of the financial, practical and emotional challenges which come with caring for someone. Balancing work and caring on a day to day basis can be a struggle – one in six carers give up work or reduce their hours as a result.* The pressures of everyday life can leave carers with little time to plan ahead for their own later life.

Last week’s Retirement Uncovered report describes the situation from a carers perspective. Joanne says, ‘I finished work earlier than I thought to look after mum and combined with my savings worth less than I thought, I had to cut back a lot on what I used to be spending. I was relying on an inheritance to compensate but the cost of care is also running down my mother’s assets – the local authority won’t help as long as she still owns her home.’

Caring can have a significant impact on experiences of retirement. The Retirement Uncovered report highlights that caring is emotional labour, it can take considerable amounts of time and energy. It can also impact on finances, both in terms of limiting time available to work and increasing costs. A CIPD report published this week states that employers could do more for working carers. For example, only 25% of employers surveyed had a formal written carers policy and 38% had no policy or plans to develop one.

So what might help carers stay in work; manage the impact of caring on their finances and plan for later life? Government can play a role but it is employers who can make a practical difference. These recent reports and others point to things employers can do:

  • Start with understanding how many carers you employ and ask them what might help
  • Develop and implement a carers policy
  • Train line managers to help them support carers
  • Facilitate peer support networks for carers
  • Offer guidance on managing the impact of caring on finances and retirement plans

As well as focusing on improving the day to day lives of those caring for someone and the role of employers, the government’s forthcoming Carers Strategy will need to ensure that supporting carers to prepare for a good later life is high on the agenda. Government also has a role to play promoting flexible working and leading the way with its HR policies and practices; making the business case for retaining carers and sharing good practice.

At the Centre for Ageing Better we want more people aged 50 years and over to be in fulfilling work that supports good life, including those who care for someone. We are working with employers and Business in the Community to share evidence and good practice, to help create a business case for the benefits of age friendly workplaces.

*Statistics taken from Carers UK Facts About Carers Briefing 2015

Claire Turner
Director of Evidence (job share)