Two thirds can expect to undertake unpaid care duties

Figures released for Carers Rights Day show that two thirds of UK adults can expect to care unpaid for a loved one in their lifetime, with women taking on caring responsibilities a decade earlier than men.

The charity Carers UK has published analysis by the Universities of Sheffield and Birmingham of data from 2001 to 2018 which shows that 65 per cent of adults have cared unpaid for a loved one. This is similar to estimates showing 64 per cent of the population own their own home. The research also reveals that the average person has a 50:50 chance of caring by 50 - long before they reach retirement age.

On average, women can expect to take on caring responsibilities over a decade earlier than men. Half of women will care by the age of 46, compared to half of men who can expect to care at 57. This means that women are especially likely to care during their working life – highlighting the need for employers to support their employees to stay in work by adopting flexible working practices and a right of five to ten days of paid care leave.

Separate research by the charity, studying those caring more than 50 hours a week, revealed that 49 per cent reported their finances had been negatively impacted, 52 per cent had suffered poorer physical health and 77 per cent were suffering from stress or anxiety as a result of missing out.

Helen Walker, chief executive of Carers UK, said: “Many of us don’t expect to become an unpaid carer but the reality is two in three of us will do it in our lifetimes. Our research shows women are disproportionately affected, facing difficult decisions about their loved ones’ health, family finances and how best to combine paid work and care more than a decade earlier than men.

“The next government has to make sure this ‘gender care gap’ is addressed by giving carers a right of five to ten days of paid care leave. It must also prioritise sustainable, long term investment in our social care system so that millions of people caring for loved ones can stay in work and look after their own health.”

Barbara Keeley, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Social Care and Mental Health, said: “It is shocking that under the Tories’ system of social care, the burden of caring unpaid for a family member or friend now falls on two-thirds of the population, with women starting caring ten years earlier than men. Nine years of failure to fund social care properly means that carers are picking up the pieces of a broken system.

“A Labour government will help carers by introducing free personal care for older people and we will raise the Carer’s Allowance for full-time unpaid carers in line with Job Seeker’s Allowance, and deliver an updated National Carers Strategy.”