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Increasing demands on families is not the answer to the care crisis

04 January 2018 by Emily Holzhausen

Emily Holzhausen

Director of Policy and Public Affairs

The Telegraph’s article about a local Trust, full to capacity calling on relatives to help older relatives be discharged from hospital highlights the crisis that the NHS and social care is under –and demonstrates why we need urgent funding in social care in particular and health to reverse this crisis.   This approach risks giving the impression that families are not doing enough to care.

Family is already picking up the pieces of a broken health and social care system at significant cost to their own health, well-being, work, income and family relationships.    Over 2 million people have given up work to care[1], many felt they had no choice to do so and a shortage of care was a significant factor in that decision[2].  Family members who care are more than twice as likely to be in bad health[3], and Carers UK’s research earlier this year found that 40% of carers had not had a break in a year – even though many were providing round the clock care[4].  The simple statistical fact is that families are caring more now than ever before and their input and care, now valued at a staggering £132 billion[5] a year, has grown whilst social care funding has shrunk.   

This increasing reliance on families has huge costs for the economy – where UK businesses also pay the price.  We have estimated that business loses around £3.5 billion in productivity reductions as a result of workers providing care to an older relative[6].   The more that families have to provide care without sufficient support in place, the more that they, business and the economy, pay the price.

The point of hospital discharge is also a critical time for families and too often their experiences are poor – and not in line with the legislation that is designed to protect their health and well-being as well as the people needing care.

In many cases families are overlooked at the point of hospital discharge, we hear from carers that their input is assumed and that they can cope with caring – even if they live miles away, work full time or have children to care for as well.  In our 2016 State of Caring survey, six out of ten carers (57%) said they were not given a choice about providing care to the person following their discharge from hospital[7].  One in four carers providing significant care were not involved or consulted about hospital discharge. One carer told us, “No additional help was offered. I got three hours’ notice and she was a two hour journey away. I don’t drive so had to beg for help from a neighbour.”[8]

Discharging someone without the right support in place for an older person and their family to manage will often have distressing and counter-productive consequences.  Worryingly, one in 10 (11%) carers said that because the person they care for was discharged too early, they had to be readmitted to hospital in the following couple of months.[9]

Unless an older person is properly assessed and the family member’s needs are assessed too before someone is discharged from hospital, this would directly contravene the rights that older people and carers have to care and support under the Care Act 2014.

Government needs to change the narrative around carers urgently and ensure that all people who need care and their families are getting the support they need.  As well as vital long term sustainable funding settlement for care, we desperately need funding for the social care system now.


[1] Carers UK and YouGov (2013) as part of Caring & Family Finances Inquiry UK Report, Carers UK (2014)

[2] Carers UK, State of Caring 2017,

[3] Census 2011

[4] Carers UK, State of Caring 2017,

[5] Valuing Carers 2015 – the rising value of carers’ support, University of Sheffield, University of Leeds and CIRCLE, published by Carers UK (2015)

[6] Carers UK, The Case for Care Leave: Families, work and the ageing population (2013)

[7] Carers UK, State of Caring 2016,

[8] Ibid

[9] Ibid

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