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Value of unpaid care to the Welsh economy doubles in 15 years, reaching over £8 billion a year

384,0562 people who provide unpaid care for a disabled, seriously-ill or older loved one in Wales save the state £8.1 billion a year – almost doubling in 15 years.The report, Valuing Carers 2015 – the rising value of carers’ support, is the third in a series looking at the value of carers’ support to the UK economy. It shows a staggering increase in the value of carers’ support in Wales since 2001, almost doubling from £4.5 billion to £8.1 billion. Researchers attribute this rise to a dramatic increase in the number of hours people are caring for, combined with an increase in the cost of replacement care3.

In light of today’s report, Carers Wales Director Keith Bowen has warned: If even a small percentage of people were unable to continue caring in Wales, this would be catastrophic for the economy.” The warning comes as Carers Wales calls for better financial support for carers and an increased investment in social care services ahead of the Treasury’s Comprehensive Spending Review.

Today’s report reveals that more people are caring for a loved one than ever before. Since 2001, the carer population in Wales has grown by 13% to 384,056 people; vastly outstripping the rate of the general population growth in Wales during this same period (7%)4.

Not only are more people caring, but they are caring for longer. Since 2001, the number of people providing 20-49 hours of care a week has increased by almost a third (31%) and those providing 50 hours of care or more a week has increased by nearly a quarter (23%).

The number of people needing care, and those needing care for longer periods of time, has increased significantly since 2001. However, as the Welsh population continues to age, local authority funding is in decline, leaving families to increasingly step in to fill the gap. Indeed, local councils in Wales are facing cuts of up to 4.5% in their budgets from the Welsh Government for 2015/165.

Keith Bowen, Director of Carers Wales said:  
“Caring will touch all of our lives at some point, yet society and public services still haven’t grasped the extent to which our economy relies on the unpaid care provided by family and friends. If even a small percentage of people were unable to continue caring in Wales, this would be catastrophic for the economy. But at a time when carers should be getting more support, they are in fact getting less as cuts to social security and local services continue. 
 
“This must be a wake-up call for national and local government ahead of the UK Treasury’s Spending Review. The Welsh Government has helped to establish new rights for carers in the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, which will be coming into force in April 2016. Under the law, local authorities will have a duty to promote carer well-being and provide information to carers about the care and support available in their local area. They will also not only have a duty to carry out Carer’s Assessments for all carers who show a need for support, but they will also have to meet any need identified. 
 
“But these improved rights will be undermined if the Spending Review does not recognise the vital contribution carers make to society – and can continue to make – by improving financial support for carers and investing in vital social care services to back up families.” 
 
Sue Yeandle, Professor of Sociology at the University of Sheffield and Director of CIRCLE (Centre for International Research on care, Labour and Equalities) co-authored the report. Professor Yeandle said: 
“It is vital to recognise the true scale of carer support. In estimating the value of care, we are able to highlight the importance of the contribution that carers make, unpaid, to our society and our economy.
 
“There are more people caring for a loved one, and more people needing care, than ever before. This increase has occurred in the context of large reductions to home care services in recent years, raising serious concerns about whether the services families need to help them care well and have a life alongside caring will be there in the future. Carers are doing more than ever to support others; we must ensure that they get the support and recognition they need and deserve.”
 
The report outlines a number of key recommendations from Carers UK ahead of the Treasury’s Comprehensive Spending Review on 25 November. These include: 
•Urgently address the chronic underfunding of the social care system: The pressure on carers to provide greater levels of care with reducing levels of support is unsustainable. A lack of adequate, sufficient or affordable care services to back-up families and enable them to have a life of their own alongside caring is pushing them to breaking point. Also, the future health of the NHS depends on a properly funded social care system. 
•Improve financial support for carers: Nearly half of carers providing the greatest levels of support have told Carers UK that they are struggling to make ends meet. The Government must set out a clear strategy for improving carers’ incomes and this must form a key part of the new cross-Government Carers Strategy. 
•Promote a carer-friendly NHS: A new stream of work to make the NHS more responsive to the needs of carers, such as introducing annual health checks or Carers Passports, is imperative to promoting the health of carers and enabling them to provide care without putting their own health at risk. 
•Introduce a right to paid care leave: Nearly half of carers are in work but many struggle with the strain of juggling work and care.  As demand for care continues to increase and the state retirement age rises, the dual pressure of balancing care and work is becoming a reality for more and more people. Carers UK is calling for a mandatory period of paid care leave of 5-10 days so that carers can juggle their caring responsibilities without it impacting negatively on their employment and, therefore, their financial security. 
•Stimulate a diverse care market to give carers better choice and flexibility: Far from replacing family care, strong social care support enables families and close friends to care while remaining part of the labour market, generating revenue for Government while securing their own long term financial security.
 
To download a copy of the report, visit: www.carersuk.org/valuingcarers