Call to give unpaid carers extra help
Published on 18 February 2013 11:30 AM
Unpaid care is not given the recognition it deserves, according to a trade unionist.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that 1 in 10 people in England and Wales deliver unpaid care, with more than a million people spending 50 hours or more a week providing it.
TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said the growing army of unpaid carers - the majority of whom are women - provide an 'invaluable' service to society, but declared they do not get enough recognition from the Government or employers.
'Far too many women are forced to trade down or even quit jobs when they take on caring responsibilities,' she said. 'Not enough employers truly embrace flexible working, despite the benefits it holds for staff and the business.'
'Unpaid care cannot meet the needs of an ageing society'
Ms O'Grady added that unpaid care cannot cater for the increasingly pressing needs of an ageing society by itself, calling for the Government to invest in all services, from childcare to care for older people.
'Without this extra funding we will continue to see women drop out of the labour market to fill the gaps in care provision,' she warned.
The number of unpaid carers has grown by 600,000 since 2001, according to the ONS. Of the 5.8 million people who look after family members and friends, 1.4 million provide more than 50 hours a week of free care.
In addition, the 2011 figures show that around 3.7 million provide between one and 19 hours of unpaid care a week, while 775,000 provide between 20 and 49 hours.
Family life is changing
Helena Herklots, chief executive of Carers UK, says the data demonstrates how family life is changing as a result of an ageing population.
'Too often the costs and pressures of caring for older or disabled loved ones can force families to give up work to care and lead to debt, poor health and isolation,' she said.
The chief executive called on society to come to terms with this demographic shift urging that services, communities and workplaces need to adapt to enable carers to live their own lives and work alongside caring.
Neath Port Talbot in south Wales was found to have the highest proportion of unpaid carers in England and Wales, with 14.6% of the population dedicating their time to unpaid care.
Copyright Press Association 2013