Caring for carers
On Tuesday, 26th September we attended the Labour Party Conference where we hosted our first public panel event in partnership with the Social Market Foundation (SMF) to discuss how working carers can be better supported.
Joining me on the panel at 'Carers and careers - a balancing act: how can we better support carers who work?' were Julie Cooper MP, shadow minister for community health, Nigel Keohane, research director at SMF and Paul Nowak, deputy general secretary, TUC.
As we all know the UK has an ageing population and with people working longer and having children later in life, it is likely there will be a rise in the number of 'sandwich' carers - those caring for children as well as elderly relatives. We also know that around 1 in 9 of the UK workforce are formal carers. However, this figure could be up to four times higher when including those who aren't receiving formal support for caring, but they will be experiencing many of the same difficulties and challenges.
Being a carer has daily challenges, not least for those who also need to balance this with work or developing a career. This is why we think employers play a critical role to support in this area which will ultimately help both the employees and their businesses. It's important they fully understand the challenges faced by carers within their workforce, provide proactive help and support and are supported themselves to be able to provide the flexibility and understanding that carers need.
The latest results from our Simplyhealth/YouGov Everyday Health Tracker, released during the panel event, found that while the majority of UK adults (58%) think the Government should play a greater role in caring for the country's ageing population, two-thirds believe employers should offer specific support for carers of elderly relatives and that the Government should support them to do this.
In addition, half of UK adults think more support to remain at work should be available to people caring for an elderly relative.
We also know from speaking to employers that many want to offer support, and with our social care system under so much pressure, they can play a crucial role in backing up the health system by doing so.
We've worked alongside employers to offer one solution to help working carers. Care for Life is an online service that provides practical advice and expert support on ageing and caring for ageing loved ones. It guides and advises on all the different and often complex issues that carers and those being cared for face, saving huge amounts of time, stress and anxiety. It also provides access to speak to experts on topics ranging from legal, financial, care at home and care home information, to finding a trusted trader or local support services and help groups close to home.
In addition, we've teamed up with technology company HealthUnlocked to develop an online freely-accessible peer-led forum so that those caring for elderly friends or relatives can share information or learn from others who have faced similar challenges. Visit https://healthunlocked.com/careforlife.
We look forward to continuing the debate at our next panel event with the Social Market Foundation 'Social care and the 'just about managing' - who cares for the carers?' public panel event at the Conservative Party Conference tomorrow where Jackie Doyle-Price MP, Care Minister will be among the panel members.