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State of Caring 2015

Caring is something that, increasingly, affects us all at some point in our lives, whether we find ourselves looking after someone we love, or we need some support ourselves; it is a normal part of life. However, caring without enough support in place can have a huge impact and it is taking its toll on millions of families throughout the UK. Whether caring is full-time, or it is part of a stressful mix of work and other family responsibilities, many carers find they don’t have the time or energy to maintain relationships, stay in work, or look after their own health and wellbeing.

Our rapidly ageing population and longer life expectancies mean that the number of older people in need of care and support is estimated to outstrip the number of working age family members able to provide it as early as 2017. The number of people caring around-the-clock is already growing rapidly; there has been a 25% increase in the number of carers providing 50 or more hours a week of unpaid care in just 10 years.

More of those born with disabilities are surviving into adulthood and later life and many are surviving serious illness like cancer or stroke yet the number of us living with long-term conditions is increasing creating new demands for our health and care service.

This demographic challenge requires a clear and urgent response from national and local government, health and care services and employers. Carers’ huge contribution to society needs to be recognised and more must be done to put the financial, practical and workplace support in place that they urgently need. Without this support, more and more carers will reach breaking point, with devastating results for families and our health and care system which has to step in when they cannot continue to care any longer.

Despite this, economic and societal circumstances continue to put pressure on families. Difficult economic conditions have led to a reduction in spending in critical public services like social care. Spending on social security has also slowed as the implementation of the Welfare Reform Act has reduced the number of carers receiving the main carers’ benefit, Carer’s Allowance. The introduction of criteria for Housing Benefit in the social sector and the localisation of support with Council Tax has left many carers struggling with the cost of living.

Yet, legislative change across the UK is giving carers the strongest ever recognition and right to support from the care system and UK party political manifestos have all included commitments to improve the lives of carers.

To make these rights a reality and fulfil these commitments, the experiences of carers must be listened to and a new dialogue must begin about how the Government, employers and society can better support families who care. This report provides a snapshot of what caring is like in 2015 for millions of people across the UK, setting out the impact that caring has on their lives and the evidence to inform this dialogue and policies that can make a real difference to carers.