A report from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) identifies that 5.8 million people in England and Wales, amounting to 10% of the population, are now providing unpaid care to sick, disabled or elderly loved ones. This figure includes 3.3 million women, an increase of 600,000 since 2001.
With an ageing population, more people are dependent on family members to look after them and the burden is falling disproportionately on women, especially those in their 50s who are spending a fifth of their lives caring for others. According to The Telegraph: “An ageing population also increases the likelihood of a person becoming an informal carer, especially during their working years. Such care provision has even been shown to have an unfavourable impact on a carer’s health and can affect labour market participation.”
Steve McIntosh, policy manager at Carers UK, said: “There is a real message to the Government that, unless social care services are funded in a sustainable way, more and more people in their 50s and 60s will have to give up their jobs at a huge cost to themselves and also to the economy.”
Commenting on this report, Lucie Prothero, associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches, said: “As the population ages, the greater the burden becomes on our health and social care systems. The ONS report demonstrates that a lack of resources is pushing the burden heavily onto relatives for unpaid care – particularly women – and is set to increase. The current government squeeze in social care funding will only magnify the problem.
“Our clinical negligence team is seeing a rise in the number of enquiries relating to poor standards of medical, nursing and community social care for the elderly. The ONS statistics represent a further compelling argument for making elderly care a priority not only to prevent the harmful impact on our ageing population but also to take the pressure off unpaid carers of working age. From our experience of dealing with elderly care complaints, we consider that health and social care services are in urgent need of reform and additional funding to protect both the elderly and vulnerable and their family members who tirelessly care for them.”