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Employment support for carers inquiry launched

16 November 2017

As of the 2011 Census, there were 6.5 million unpaid carers in the UK.  As the population ages and people live for longer with complex health conditions, the number of unpaid carers is set to increase rapidly, compounded by pressures on the social care budget that mean people may have to take on more care responsibilities themselves at home.

Millions of unpaid carers in the UK

Currently, over three million of those unpaid carers in the UK are also in paid employment.

Research suggests that over 2 million people have given up employment at some point to care for family or friends with long-term illness, disability or problems related to old age, while 3 million have had to reduce their working hours.

People who provide the most hours of care per week are significantly more likely to live in poverty: 37% of the 1.4 million working-age adults in the UK who provide at least 20 hours of care live in poverty, compared to the average poverty rate for a working-age "non-carer" of 21%.

Supporting carers to stay in work

In 2014, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) published their ‘Fuller workings lives: a framework for action' report, which looks at ways that government and employers can work together to support people in employment later in life.

It said that 'supporting carers to stay in work is becoming a major challenge for employers' and looked at various pilots run by employers to support carers. It also announced that people would no longer face the "cliff-edge" drop off in carers' allowance with income under Universal Credit.

Government pilots

In 2015, the Government announced £1.6million to support nine pilot projects exploring ways to help carers balance employment with their caring responsibilities.

The pilots were intended to 'explore how technology can be combined with professional support from the Local Authority and the assistance of informal networks of friends, neighbours and Time Bank volunteers to ease the pressure of caring.'

These pilots have now concluded and an evaluation was initially expected in October of this year.

The Government also committed to producing a cross-government carers strategy, and held a consultation which concluded in March 2016: its conclusions have not been produced yet. 

'We want to hear from carers and their employers'

Rt Hon Frank Field MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

"There are millions of unpaid carers in this country doing vital work, ever more so with the pressures on the social care budget.

We want to hear from carers and their employers about the realities of juggling caring duties with paid employment, and the kinds of practical ways we can help to get, and keep, people in the paid work they want while crucially ensuring their friends, relatives, and loved ones can continue to receive the best possible care."

We must find ways to 'recognise and support' carer's work

Steve McCabe MP, Committee Member, said:

"I believe that carers largely provide unpaid care as an act of love and devotion but it is really important that their valuable contribution doesn't end up resembling a form of slavery.

We must find ways to recognise and support their work, both paid and unpaid."

Call for written submissions  

We invite evidence from any and all interested parties on some or all of the following questions, and are particularly keen to hear from any of you involved in the pilots. 

Your evidence will be incorporated into the conclusions of this inquiry, which in turn aims to inform the upcoming carers strategy.

  • Does DWP provide adequate support for carers in employment and those seeking employment? What more could the department do?
  • How can the Department work more proactively with employers to support carers?
  • What are the main barriers to employment for carers and how can these be reduced?
  • What role can assistive technology play in supporting carers in employment/seeking employment?
  • What examples of employer best practice towards carers could the Department promote? Would mandatory ‘carers policy' statements be a good idea?
  • Is there a ‘cultural shift' needed in our attitude towards carers in employment? If so, how far can the Department go in influencing such a shift?
  • Is there a coherent cross-government strategy for supporting carers in employment/seeking employment?

On the pilots specifically

  • What were the objectives for the pilots and how have they performed against those objectives?
  • Is there scope to roll-out successful schemes more widely?
  • What other lessons have been learnt from the pilot schemes?

Submit your views

You can submit evidence through our evidence portal, or please get in touch if you have special requirements for submitting evidence.

The deadline for submissions is Friday 22 December 2017.

We expect to hear oral evidence early in the New Year.

Further information

Image: iStockphoto