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State of Caring 2016

Our latest calculation of the value of unpaid care in the UK shows that the contribution of the UK’s carers is growing and is now worth a staggering £132 billion. That’s the equivalent of spending on the National Health Service. So how is this huge contribution being recognised and what support can carers expect in return?New legal rights for carers across the UK for support with social care services suggest the growing contribution of carers is increasingly recognised by governments and policy makers. In 2016 these rights are at different stages of implementation.

In England an early picture is emerging of what new rights mean in reality within the context of continued reductions to social care spending expected to result in a shortfall of £3.5 billion by the end of this Parliament and an NHS struggling to meet savings targets.3 The results show that the spirit of the Care Act 2014 and the Children and Families Act 2014 have not become a reality for all – and carers are struggling to get the support from health and care services that they need to care, work and have a life outside caring.

The survey shows evidence of public services creaking under pressure – charging is up, the right services are harder to find and vital support is cut or under threat, leaving many carers anxious about the future and their ability to continue to care.

Despite saving money for the UK economy, caring still comes with a high personal cost for the many carers who are struggling to make ends meet, finding it hard to stay in touch with friends and family, seeing their own health and wellbeing suffer, or needing more support to stay in work alongside caring. For many in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the impact of welfare reform changes continue to be felt as changes to Housing Benefit and the localisation of council tax reduction continue to bite. The prospect of further reductions to Employment Support Allowance and help with housing costs threatens greater financial insecurity for many families in the future. A commitment to exempt carers entitled to Carer’s Allowance from the benefit cap will bring relief to some. The freezing of some benefits and the negative Consumer Price Index inflation measure keeping carer and disability benefits at the same level this year mean families receiving social security will struggle with any increase in the cost of living.

For carers to feel that the care they give is truly valued and that choosing to provide care doesn’t mean putting their own lives own hold, more must be done to put in place the financial, practical and workplace support that they urgently need.

Newly elected representatives in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland considering their priorities for the next electoral term and the Westminster Government considering the shape of its new cross government strategy to support carers must put carers’ priorities at the heart of their policy making.