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“A new settlement between carers and the state”

The Carers’ Covenant

Author: Ben Glover

The rise of the informal care economy is perhaps the most significant yet under-reported demographic shift in recent British history. We estimate there are now almost eight million informal carers in the UK - an approximately 35% increase on 2001 - and that the value of the informal (unpaid) care economy is now equivalent to £139bn. This is about as large as overall health spending in the UK2 (£144bn) and more than seven times the UK’s total annual spend on adult social care (£18bn).

Given that our population will continue to age, we only expect to see further increases in the size of the informal care economy in coming decades. We see in this report the astonishing work carers are doing across the country but we also see that too many of them are struggling as a result of their duties. This report aims to put that right by outlining a new, bold policy agenda to support carers.

Furthermore, the increasingly high-profile political debate regarding the future of social care has omitted any meaningful discussion of the plight of carers and the vital role that they will play in any new solution on social care. We hope that this report will put carers back at the centre of this debate and may also lead to some proper consideration of the role they could play in solving Britain's social care crisis. Operating between the state and the market in families, communities and neighbourhoods, we now see informal carers as one way through the current political impasse on social care so long as we can ensure they are better supported.

This report makes 12 policy recommendations across five key themes: financial assistance, employment, identification and support, support networks and technology. These policies together form a covenant for carers, a radical new settlement between the state and our nation's many informal caregivers. These recommendations are grounded in a research project that examined three distinct questions:

  1. Who are informal carers?
  2. What is the experience of informal carers?
  3. What support is available for carers internationally?