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Breaking Point - the social care burden on women

As the State has retreated and failed to fulfil its social care duties, it is women who have often paid the price.

Our report shines a light on what is happening to many women across the country today, through the stories of four women who are caring for loved ones.

Read the report

Sarah, Rasila, Joyce and Elaine have had to make difficult decisions about working and caring for loved ones, putting their own lives and interests on hold. These are their stories.

The national picture

  • There are 1.25 million sandwich carers in the UK. These are people caring for an older relative as well as bringing up a family. 68% (850,743) are women.
  • Sandwich carers' ages range from 20s to 60s, but those aged 35-44 are the most likely to be carers with 35% being in this age group.
  • 73% of sandwich carers provide under 10 hours of caring a week but 7% provide over 35 hours per week – that's 88,391 sandwich carers doing over 35 hours each week.
  • The oldest sandwich carers (55-64) provide the longest hours with 29% of them providing over 20 hours of caring a week.
  • In total 78% of sandwich carers are in paid work and 49% of those carers providing over 35 hours are still in paid work.

It's time the Government delivered

The failings of the care system mean that women in particular are often left to pick up the pieces. Some are at breaking point and many more at risk of it.

How much longer can women carry the burden of our crumbling social care system? The delays and false promises need to end.

"It's hard work, it's exhausting, I don't think there's a day gone by in the last three years where I've not sat there and cried my eyes out."

Sarah, who cares for her mum

Fix care for good

Too many older people don’t get the essential care they desperately need. We're campaigning to get the Government to address this.

Technical note: sandwich carers in the UK

Elizabeth Webb, March 2019

In this analysis we sought to estimate the number of sandwich carers in the UK, and to describe these sandwich carers in terms of the proportion who are women and who are in paid work, the age distribution of these carers and the number of hours of care they provide each week.

We define a sandwich carer as someone who i) is a parent, be that a biological, step, adoptive or foster parent, living with their child(ren) aged 16 or younger and ii) is providing informal care for an older relative – a parent, parent-in-law, grandparent, aunt or uncle – whether or not that older relative lives with them.

We used data from wave 8 of the UK Household Longitudinal Study (UKHLS, Understanding Society), which surveys people living in around 40,000 households across the UK annually. These data were collected in 2016-2018 and were published in November 2018. Our analysis was restricted to people aged 16 and older.

We took our estimates from UKHLS and used Office for National Statistics mid-year population estimates for 2017 to scale these up to the national population. ONS estimates that in mid-2017 there were 53,534,872 people aged 16 and older living in the UK.

Using this methodology we estimate that there are 1.25 million sandwich carers in the UK (2.3% of the UK population aged 16 and older). Of these, 68% are women and 35% are aged 35-44 years. 73% of sandwich carers provide fewer than 10 hours of care a week and 7% provide 35 or more hours. 84% of those sandwich carers providing 35 or more hours of care a week are women. 78% of all sandwich carers are in paid work, and among sandwich carers providing 35 or more hours of care a week 49% are in paid work.

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Last updated: Nov 04 2020

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