Hunt backs flexibility for carers
Published on 27 August 2013 12:00 PM
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has called for working carers to be given greater flexibility over their workplace commitments.
The Conservative minister said employers should allow staff who care for older relatives to choose what hours they work.
Mr Hunt said a new attitude towards working carers was required to tackle the issues posed by Britain's rapidly ageing population and an impending ‘dementia time bomb', reported the Daily Telegraph.
He said hundreds of thousands of people who balance work and care commitments should be offered flexible hours to increase the likelihood of them remaining in their jobs.
Number of dementia carers to increase by a quarter
The number of people caring for loved ones who suffer dementia is expected to increase by a quarter up to 850,000, he warned.
And the economy would be damaged if large numbers of this increasingly large group were forced to give up work, he said.
Statistics from the 2011 census revealed there are about 6.5 million people in Britain with caring responsibilities - an increase of 10% over a decade.
Carers UK - a charity offering advice and support to the millions of people who look after an older, disabled or seriously ill family member or friend - estimates that 2 million of these have left work entirely to care, while another 3 million have reduced their working hours.
Existing laws, introduced by Labour, allow parents with young children and those who look after sick, frail or disabled relatives to request special working arrangements including flexible hours, job sharing, part-time work and the chance to concentrate work into certain times of the year or days of the week.
Some employers need to do more
Mr Hunt praised the many employers who have embraced flexible working policies, but added that some are simply not prepared for the scale of change.
None of us can afford to ignore this problem, he warned.
Too many people feel unable to combine caring for a family member with working and this situation ‘will only get worse as we face the consequences of a dementia time bomb', he said.
The health secretary was speaking ahead of publication of a report which will claim £1.3 billion in public money could be saved each year through flexibility.
The study will be published next week by the Department of Health, Carers UK and Employers for Carers.
'Social care has been whittled down to the bone'
Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director General of Age UK said,
'Social care has been whittled down to the bone, resulting in families having to make agonising choices between earning a much needed wage and leaving work to take on the role of full-time carer. Full-time carers will usually experience a huge drop in income to carry out a role that is often 24/7.
'The figures show that around 300,000 carers who are forced to leave their job each year, which is not only bad for the individual but also the economy. Everyone should have the opportunity to work flexibly as this will enable more older workers to remain in their job as well as caring for a relative.
'Large numbers currently find themselves locked out of the job market because they can't work conventional hours, depriving the UK economy of skills and knowledge at a time when the country needs to make the most of all its resources.
'Flexible working has been shown to increase employee commitment, productivity and improve staff retention so it's simply common sense that the Government and employers embrace it.'
Copyright Press Association 2013