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Half of women will be carers by 46 report says

Research by Universities of Sheffield and Birmingham has found that women take on caring responsibilities more than a decade earlier than men. 

The report, published by Charity Carers UK  based on research by Universities of Sheffield and Birmingham, analysed data from 2001 to 2018  and found that two thirds (65%) of adults were caring for a loved one, unpaid.

The charity said that the average person has a 50:50 chance of caring by 50, long before they reach retirement age. With half of women taking on carer duties by the age of 46, compared to half of men who became carers at 57, meaning women are likely to care during their working life.

Separate research by the charity reveals significant consequences for carers coping without support. In a study of those caring more than 50 hours a week, almost half (49%) reported their finances had been negatively impacted, 52% had suffered poorer physical health and the vast majority (77%) were suffering from stress or anxiety as a result of missing out.

The charity said the report highlights the need for employers to support their employees to stay in work by adopting flexible working practices and a right of five to ten days of paid care leave. Helen Walker, chief executive of Carers UK, said:

‘Many of us don’t expect to become an unpaid carer but the reality is two in three of us will do it in our lifetimes.

‘Our research shows women are disproportionately affected, facing difficult decisions about their loved ones’ health, family finances and how best to combine paid work and care more than a decade earlier than men.

‘The next government has to make sure this ‘gender care gap’ is addressed by giving carers a right of five to ten days of paid care leave. It must also prioritise sustainable, long term investment in our social care system so that millions of people caring for loved ones can stay in work and look after their own health.’

Carers UK is urging all political parties to commit to delivering long term investment in social care so that millions of people can look after loved ones without putting their lives on hold. It is also calling on all parties to better recognise carers within public services, including placing a legal duty on the NHS to identify carers and promote their health and wellbeing.

Barbara Keeley, Labour’s shadow minister for social care and mental health, said carers are ‘picking up the pieces of a broken system’. She said:

‘It is shocking that under the Tories’ system of social care, the burden of caring unpaid for a family member or friend now falls on two-thirds of the population, with women starting caring ten years earlier than men.

‘Nine years of failure to fund social care properly means that carers are picking up the pieces of a broken system.

‘A Labour government will help carers by introducing free personal care for older people and we will raise the Carer’s Allowance for full-time unpaid carers in line with Job Seeker’s Allowance, and deliver an updated National Carers Strategy.’

The Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties have not yet responded to requests for comment.

Photo Credit – Pixabay

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