How unpaid carers prop up NHS to the tune of £11bn

Helena Herklots, Chief Executive of Carers UK
Helena Herklots, Chief Executive of Carers UK
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THE COUNTRY could face a care crisis which would “bring the NHS to its knees” unless more is done to support the millions of people who work unpaid to look after their loved ones, according to a hard-hitting new report.

Experts reveal today that in Yorkshire alone there are half-a-million carers who are saving the state more than £11bn.

And they warn an ageing population means the situation is becoming increasingly unsustainable. They claim that if only a tiny fraction of people stopped providing this unpaid care it would be catastrophic for the economy.

The report from the Carers UK charity and Sheffield University shows the 573,954 people who provide unpaid care for a disabled, seriously-ill or older loved one in the Yorkshire save the economy £11.2 billion every year.

It also reveals a massive increase in the value of support provided by carers in the Yorkshire since 2001, almost doubling from £6.1 billion. Researchers put this down to an increase in the number of hours people are caring for combined with rises in the estimated cost of replacement care . The report, Valuing Carers 2015 – the rising value of carers’ support, says 6.8 million unpaid people in the UK save the state £132 billion every year – “close to the cost of a second NHS”.

Today report makes recommendation for the Government including “addressing the chronic underfunding” of the social care system, improving financial support for carers as almost half say they are struggling to make ends meet and introduce a right to paid care leave.

It also reveals that more people in Yorkshire are caring for a loved one than ever before. Since 2001, the carer population has grown by 11.1 per cent to 573,954; vastly outstripping the growth of the general population during this same period (6.2 per cent). This growth in the caring population in the region is being put down to due an increasing number of people with disabilities and long-term illnesses living in to later life, as well as a reduction in the provision of local authority home care services, meaning that families are increasingly stepping in to fill the gaps.

Heléna Herklots, chief executive of Carers UK, said: “If even a small percentage of people were unable to continue caring, the economic impact would be catastrophic.” She said a rapidly ageing population meant the numbers of people in need of care and support is now beginning to outstrip the numbers of working-age family members able to provide it. But at a time when carers should be getting more support, they are actually getting less. This is not only unacceptable but dangerously unsustainable.”

She said this must be a wake up call for government ahead of the Treasury’s Spending Review on November 25

Sue Yeandle, Professor of Sociology at Sheffield University who co-authored the report said: “It is vital to recognise the true scale of carer support. In estimating the value of care, we are able to highlight the importance of the contribution that carers make, unpaid, to our society and our economy.”