Growth in family carers propping up the care system
New research reveals the growth in family carers caring for elderly relatives – and the price they pay.
The Social Market Foundation has calculated that there are 7.6 million people in the UK who provide unpaid care for a relative. That is 1 million more than in 2005. Almost 15% of adults now care for a relative.
Not only are more people caring, but family carers are undertaking more care. Among carers, the proportion providing 20 or more hours a week has increased from 24% to 28% between 2005 and 2015. On average family carers provide 19.5 hours per week of care.
Family carers provide 149 million hours of care each week. That is equal to the work of 4 million full-time paid care staff.
The SMF report, entitled Caring for Carers, was sponsored by Age UK and sets out new details about the people who are providing the care on which the country depends. It found:
- Most carers are women: 59% of people caring for an elderly relative are women and 65% of people caring for a sick or disabled child are women.
- 5% of women provide family care, this is up from 14.9% in 2005. The number of women carers has risen from 3.75 million to 4.45 million.
- 4% of men provide family care, up from 12% in 2005. The number of men providing family care has risen from 2.82 million to 3.19 million.
- Older people are more likely to be carers. 26% of women aged 55-59 provide care to a relative. Only 16% of men in the same age bracket do so.
- After the age of 65, the gender gap on care closes: 19% of women aged 65-69 provide care, which is the same proportion for men of the same age. Among over-70s, men are more likely to provide care, generally for wives and partners.
The report also shows how the jobs that carers do are changing, and reveals the impact that caring has on the careers of people in different occupations.
- People working in management and professional occupations make up the largest occupational group of carers in employment.
- The only occupational social class where the proportion of women providing care rose was management/professionals with 19% of women in professional jobs providing care, up from 18% in 2005.
- The proportion of women in ‘routine’ occupations providing care fell, from 22% to 21%.
- Carers are more likely to work less and earn less than those who do not have caring responsibilities.
- Among people in employment aged 40-64, some 77% of non-carers work full time. Only 61% of high-hours carers have full-time jobs.
- Caring is associated with lower pay: Carers earn 13% less per hour than non-carers.
- Women who care earn 4% less than those who do not. Men who care earn 15% less than those who do not.
- The typical (ie median) man aged 40-64 who does not provide care has a gross monthly income of £2,584. The typical man who provides family care while working is £2,167. That is a monthly difference of £417, or £5,004 per year.
- For women, non-carers have median earnings of £1,500 while carers earn £1,450. The monthly difference is £50, or £600 per year.
- Caring has bigger impact on male earnings because they are more likely to be working full time and earning more before taking up their caring duties than women – reducing their hours of work or changing job therefore has a bigger impact on their earnings.
The SMF report makes a number of recommendations for the social care Green Paper, several of which are aimed at ‘nudging’ employers into offering more support for working carers:
- Employees should record the number of their staff who have caring responsibilities.
- ‘Care pay gap’ reporting could be required, where employers would publicly report the pay rates of staff with caring responsibilities and that of those of comparable staff without caring duties.
- Big employers should be required to publish policies for supporting workers who care. Surveys suggest only 40% of large employers have policies setting out how managers should support carers.
The paper also suggests much greater use of ‘care navigators’ to help family carers guide elderly relatives through the complex system of public sector bodies likely to be involved in their overall package of care.