Five million people in the UK are juggling caring responsibilities with work – that’s 1 in 7 workers. The demands of caring are such that 600 people give up work every day to care for an older or disabled relative. As a result, support for people who care for loved ones is collapsing, and many families are reaching breaking point.
The funding deficit is catastrophic, made worse by the Covid pandemic, as cash-strapped local authorities are finding it increasingly hard to balance the cost of care with the need to control their budgets. And with nearly 440,000 people leaving care jobs every year, staff shortages are getting worse.
As the UK population ages, an increasing number of people are providing care for family members. Unpaid care provided by friends and family is essential to our society and the economy and indispensable to the people they care for. Informal carers save the economy £132 billion annually, an average of £19,336 per carer per year2.
But as a society, we often fail to recognise that value because caring for older, ill or disabled loved ones is something we tend to do out of love and compassion – doing what any parent, child or partner does when someone close to us needs our help. It feels completely natural. So natural in fact, that we often don’t notice that we’re doing it.
We describe people who care full-time for a loved one as wonderful and admirable, but as a society, we don’t seem to believe that care is worth much. And we’re unwilling to pay what that care really costs. Which is why we tend to leave it to family members. An enormous part of our economy and society is under-resourced and overlooked.
As a result, support for people who care for loved ones is collapsing, and many families are reaching breaking point. Five million people in the UK are juggling caring responsibilities with work – that’s 1 in 7 workers. The demands of caring are such that 600 people give up work every day to care for an older or disabled relative3.
The inevitable consequence is that pressure on the social care system gets even worse.
Good care is the difference between being kept alive and having a fulfilling life – empathy, trust, gentleness and the ambition to provide a better quality of life.
But all too often, care work is reduced to tick boxes, and carers workers are pressured to function like machines. That problem is exacerbated by stereotypes of care work as easy; low-skilled, low-status and therefore low-paid.
By connecting people needing care with qualified and experienced local in-home care providers, online platforms like Elunow have enormous potential to match the needs of those needing care with qualified, passionate, and experienced local caregivers, providing respite and peace of mind for informal caregivers and their families.
Enabling care seekers to find quality care when they need it, on-demand, without long-term contracts or commitments, can ease the burden on informal caregivers by providing access to quality care when its needed most. That could be a few hours each week, to offer some much-needed downtime. Or perhaps just be an extra pair of hands every now and then when the burden of care becomes too much.
As a country, we must recognise the importance and value that informal care offers those needing support and to society as a whole. But in recognising that value, we must also accept the burden that those caregivers carry. And that means offering them the support they need when they need it.
Working in adult social care makes a real difference in people’s lives every day. Elunow supports The Department of Health and Social Care’s ‘When you care, every day makes a difference’ campaign.