Unpaid carers cost economy £5.3bn, charity warns

Woman helping an elderly man to his door
Image caption Over 300,000 carers in England have left employment to provide unpaid care

Carers who give up work to look after others cost England's economy about £5.3bn a year, the charity Age UK says.

It says an unfit care system means people often have to give up work to help the elderly or adult disabled.

The figure was calculated on the lost earnings and forgone taxes of more than 300,000 unpaid carers.

The government says its long-awaited white paper on social care is "imminent" and will include funding changes to "transform care".

Michelle Mitchell, charity director general of Age UK said: "For many people, caring for a loved one is second nature and they wouldn't have it any other way.

"But carers should never be forced to sacrifice their own financial security and wellbeing due to the lack of service provision and support from public services.

"Care cannot wait any longer - this is the government's last chance to get it right and set their political legacy for generations to come."

A Department of Health spokesman said: "We agree that helping people to stay in work alongside caring not only helps carers' careers and family finances but is crucial for our workforce and economy.

"The government has committed to working together with the business community to help carers manage work and care.

"Social care reform is one of the biggest public policy challenges society faces and, in the current public spending environment, we need to make sure that we get this reform right to deliver lasting change. "

Reform needed

The Age UK analysis built on work from the London School of Economics in April, adding in loss of wages to previously calculated loss from tax revenues and claimed carers' allowance.

Loss of earnings was estimated using three surveys: the carers survey - to examine the proportion of male to female, part-time to full-time carers, the labour-force survey - to calculate average earnings, and the population estimate.

On Tuesday the Local Government Association warned the rising cost of adult social care could "soak up" almost all of council spending by 2020.

Currently, £14.6bn is spent on adult social care services in England.

Last year the economist Andrew Dilnot was asked by ministers to look at how funding could be changed. The Dilnot Commission recommended the means-testing threshold for those needing residential care be increased to £100,000. It also called for a partnership whereby individuals pay the first chunk of their care. It recommended a cap of between £25,000 and £50,000.

Wales and Northern Ireland both have means-tested systems similar to that in England.

Scotland provides free personal care, but in recent years has started tightening the eligibility criteria for the same reasons councils in England have.

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