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You’ll care [about this] more than you think…

21 November 2019 by Helen Walker

Helen Walker

Chief Executive

In this blog, Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, talks about new research which reveals the likelihood of any one of us caring for someone during our lifetime...

Having to look after and provide care for someone close to you is one of those things in life that people always think is going to happen to someone else.

Back in 2017, we asked people how likely they thought it was that they would become a carer in the future. Just 4% of non-carers thought it was ‘very likely’ that it would be them1.

However, our research published today to mark Carers Rights Day, now exposes this misconception and makes the reality crystal clear… Two thirds of people in the UK can expect to become an unpaid carer at some point in their lifetime.

Just let that sink in for a second… You have a very significant (65%) chance of needing to provide care and support to a family member, friend, or someone close to you.

As is often the case, the impact isn’t neutral across genders. For women, you have a 50:50 chance of providing care by the time you are 46. That same 50:50 chance doesn’t hit men until age 57.

However, it is noteworthy that all adults have at least a 50:50 chance of providing care by age 50, long before they retire, which will leave millions more people struggling to juggle work with their care responsibilities.

It’s often very difficult to pinpoint the exact time in your life when you will become a carer. It can happen overnight; through an accident or sudden illness, or it can creep up gradually, through a degenerative condition or increasing frailty. It’s hard to plan, and all too often people are left under prepared at what is usually a difficult time in their life anyway.

What this research really shows is that it is no longer an option for governments and politicians to ignore the plight of the UK’s rapidly growing population of unpaid carers.

The official figures from the last census say there are 6.5m carers, but we are sure this is an underestimate of the numbers currently caring, with our polling figures closer to 9m.

As the number of carers in our society continues to grow it is now, more than ever, vital that we increase awareness of the issues carers face, both with politicians and the general public. With a general election taking place next month, we have a real task on our hands to ensure that carers and caring are key issues in the campaign debates.

To that end, we recently launched our ‘Manifesto for Carers 2019’, outlining the challenges that carers face, and our recommendations for how the next Government can make a difference to the lives of millions of unpaid carers.

Finally, a big thank you to everyone who has been involved with Carers Rights Day this year. Together, we will continue to fight for unpaid carers who give so much, and who deserve so much better!


[1] Building a carer friendly society, Carers Week, 2017

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