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LISTEN: A lack of unpaid carers will cause ‘the system to collapse’

The latest Voices of Care podcast episode features Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, who is calling on the next government to reform social care by properly honouring unpaid carers.

The Voices of Care podcast is a a channel dedicated to celebrating the health and social care sector. The latest episode, which was made public yesterday, features Sir Davey, who also works as an MP for Kingston and Surbiton, and he discusses all things General Election and how the social care sector could be better represented. He claims the current Care Allowance is ‘an absolute disaster’ and a way for reforming this would be to better honour unpaid carers across the UK. 

macro photography of silver and black studio microphone condenser

Arguably, there is no better time to do this. 2021 Census data found that more than five million people in England and Wales over the age of five were providing unpaid care in 2021; although research from Carers UK in 2022 estimates the number of unpaid carers could be as high as 10.6 million.

‘We clearly need to look after our care professionals much better than we do, but I think care professionals would be the first to say, “let’s also look after the families and the loved ones and the neighbours and the friends who do the vast bulk of caring,” Sir Davey said. ‘I’m not talking about childcare, I’m talking about looking after disabled people, looking after elderly relatives, looking after spouses.’

Sir Davey added: ‘We need better training for, and structures in place to support unpaid carers. At 12-years-old, when I was caring for my terminally ill mother and administrating morphine, I wish I had [some] training.’

As well as providing the carers with more support, Sir Davey explained honouring their position could also be beneficial to the economy – research from Carers UK and Sheffield University in May 2023 showed unpaid carers contribute £162bn per year. Whats more, data from the State of Caring 2023 Survey shows 40% of carers provide more than 50 hours a week of unpaid care, many had given up their jobs to focus on this and 22% had reduced their hours. Almost half (49%) who had sacrificed their full-time job said they had seen their income reduce by over £1,000 a month.  

With these facts in mind, Sir Davey said: ‘We need to make it a lot easier for people who can work alongside caring to do so. It keeps them mentally healthy, brings in more money and [avoids] going from a [possible] double income family to a no income family just because of the unluckiness of health.

‘People who are doing full time caring for loved ones, guess what, oftentimes they are quite poor. It is not right that we treat unpaid carers in this way.  There’s a big debate over Carers Allowance, it needs complete reform it is an absolute disaster.’

The topics touched upon within this article are just a mere fraction of what Sir Davey discussed, you can access the full podcast here. 

In related news, other social care industry experts have spoken up about how the upcoming General Election could be life changing for the sector. In particular, Mike Padgham, chair of the Independent Care Group, has claimed the future prime minister should prioritise giving fair pay to a workforce that is short of 152,000 staff. 

Image: Jonathan Velasquez

More on this topic:

Reaction to Labour’s plans to slash NHS wait times

10 years on: LGA survey exposes ineffectiveness of the Care Act

Emily Whitehouse
Writer and journalist for Newstart Magazine, Social Care Today and Air Quality News.

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