Carers

Carers are people who look after those with an illness, disability or special needs. The work of carers is vital to society and our economy, but it is often unappreciated. Carers make up over 12% of the total UK workforce and their work saves the UK about £57.4 billion per year (1, 2). Furthermore, 3 in 5 people will become carers at some point in time. Despite these facts the importance of caring as a profession is barely acknowledged by most people.

Carers also have a valuable insight into what is needed to improve healthcare for people but their views are often ignored or trivialised by those who run our healthcare services. This is a pity since they can provide valuable information to policy makers at the planning stages of new healthcare initiatives.

Carers UK

In the past few years this situation has started to change, largely thanks to charities such as Carers UK, which aim to raise the profile of carers and to fight for equality for them. Carers UK has been working tirelessly to ensure that carers are guaranteed a fair level of income and that their views are sought when designing and delivering healthcare services to the community.

In 2004 a Carers UK survey revealed the shocking extent to which carers were being marginalised. The survey found that one in three carers were struggling to pay their bills and were falling into financial hardship as a result. This had dire effects for their health and a knock on impact in terms of being able to provide care for others.

Call to Arms

Carers UK has called upon the government to provide concrete measures that will prevent employment discrimination for carers and has asked employers to develop flexible working policies for their employees with caring responsibilities. In 2006, the campaign achieved a major breakthrough, when carers were given the right to request flexible working. It has been suggested that as many 2.65million carers stand to benefit from these changes.

As our population ages, the need for carers will also rise. Over the next 30 years the number of carers is set to grow from 6 million to 9 million (2). If we want to see their contribution to society to continue then more will need to be done to ensure that carers get the respect and recognition that they deserve.

(Submitted by Dr Faiz Kermani)

References

  1. Who or what is a Carer?
  2. Carers UK

Other useful links

  1. Carers UK website if you live in Northern Ireland
  2. Carers UK website if you live in Wales
  3. Carers UK ebsite if you live in Scotland

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