Support carers to stay in employment
Carers week this year highlighted that caring can be bad for your own health, and carers are picking up the slack as services are rationed or reduced.
I took part in one of the week’s 9,000 events. It made me reflect on how caring responsibilities affect a carer’s employment prospects and why this is an issue that all councils need to address.
The summit, organised by Employers for Carers and hosted by BT, brought together a range of perspectives on the topic. We heard from across Europe why this is taken seriously and Paul Burstow, Care Services Minister, promised a new task force in his contribution.
About a quarter of Britain’s carers left full time employment as a result of their role, particularly people in the 40s and 50s. Many parent carers never work. This is bad news for them and for our economy as it depletes our talent pool.
There are a number of reasons why councils should address this, beyond their social care responsibilities. It is bad for their local economy and growth prospects. It affects them as employers if they lose or cannot recruit carers with the skills they need.
Government recognises why carers need support and breaks to carry on caring. This summit emphasised the case for reliable and flexible services for carers and those they care for, particularly in response to unplanned events, to keep them in employment.
Participants drew a lot on parallels with childcare. Parents have an entitlement to help and councils have a duty to ensure there is enough of the right kind and in the right location. The law requires employers to be aware of parenting responsibilities. Good employers also have carer friendly policies but the availability of flexible support is very patchy.
Evidence from Europe supports the business case for Government supporting carers to stay in work. A combination of vouchers and personal budgets for users and carers can create new business opportunities, just as the childcare market has grown significantly. Carers in work help growth and raise taxes.
There is a practical, moral and economic argument for councils to join in this debate.
Andrew Cozens is Chair of Carers Trust and freelance adviser on policy and improvement