Tipping point for care

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

On the day (19 February 2010) of the care conference called by Secretary of State for Health, Andy Burnham MP, to try to find political consensus on the reform of social care, the national charity Carers UK called upon government, employers, public services, communities and families to sign up to a new social contract before a tipping point for care is reached in 2017 that risks plunging families and the UK economy into disaster. (1)

Demographic change is one of the greatest challenges facing our society and our economy.   More people are living longer and living longer with disability and greater numbers are now entering retirement than are entering the labour market.  Unless we take action now, the care needed by older people is likely to outstrip what families currently provide by 2017 (2) – this is the tipping point for care.  Unless more services are provided in a way that really helps families, more people will be unable to work.  New research from Birmingham University sets out some of these risks – families will be less likely to be in work and will miss out on an estimated £750 million to £1.5 billion in earnings each year if there is not sufficient investment in care. (3)

Around one million people have given up work to care (Ipsos MORI) – one in six people with caring responsibilities (4). Those providing significant amounts of care are twice as likely to suffer ill-health and those providing care over long periods of time are far more likely to be in receipt of means-tested benefits.  Every day, over 6,000 people take on a caring role for a family member or friend, unpaid, and there are a staggering six million people providing this care throughout the UK.

Imelda  Redmond, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said, “It is time that we think completely differently about how care is provided and about supporting families who do decide to provide care, unpaid.   With constraint on public finances, it is critical that we all work together to ensure that families and individuals are given the support they need, so that they can meet the challenges of managing chronic illness and disability.”

She added, “Carers are looking to all political parties to provide a strong lead - but every other public service, our communities and employers and even our families have a role to play. Our social contract sets out this vision.”


(1) Tipping Point for Care – time for a new social contract is available from Carers UK at www.carersuk.org/Professionals/ResearchLibrary/Socialcontract
(2) Linda Pickard (2008) ‘Informal care for older people provided by their adult children: projections of supply and demand to 2041 in England’. Report to the Strategy Unit and the Department of Health
(3) Prof Jon Glasby, Prof Chris Ham, Rosemary Littlechild and Prof Steve McKay (2010) ‘The case for social care reform – the wider economic and social benefits’, February 2010, HMSC and IASS, University of Birmingham
(4) Carers UK/Ipsos MORI (2009) ‘One million give up work to care’ - Carers Rights Day www.carersuk.org/Newsandcampaigns/News/1259922594