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Everyday across the UK, the work of unpaid carers helps hold society together – with around 10.6m people providing care across the UK for those who need it most.[i] The value of unpaid care provided by carers was estimated at £162 billion per year in England and Wales and 5.8bn per year in Northern Ireland.[ii]

Providing care to family and friends often limits carers’ earning potential and adds extra costs that they would not otherwise have.

As a result, unpaid carers end up in poverty or find themselves in precarious financial positions. This is particularly true of carers who care more intensively and those who provide unpaid care over longer periods of time.

The financial challenges carers face also has a significant impact on their physical and mental health, which often increases their own need for treatment, support and services to enable them to cope.

  • Unpaid carers experience an average ‘pay penalty’ of nearly £5,000 per year, reaching nearly £8,000 per year after six years of providing unpaid care.[iii]
  • 28% of carers live in poverty compared to 20% of those not in a caring role.[iv]
  • 44% of working age adults who are providing unpaid care for more than 35 hours a week are in poverty.[v] Significantly, this is the qualifying number of hours of unpaid care for a range of carers’ benefits, including Carer’s Allowance.

Carer Poverty Coalition manifesto 

Read our 2024 Manifesto, which outlines our asks of Government ahead of the General Election.

Ahead of the General Election later this year, we want to see every political party commit to policies that would help unpaid carers who are currently living in poverty or who are experiencing financial difficulties, as well as setting out comprehensive plans to prevent any carers from falling into poverty in the first place.

Our manifesto covers 4 key areas.


Putting an end to carer poverty

Carers should not be ending up in poverty in the first place. There is a clear moral as well as economic argument for supporting unpaid carers to live on a decent and adequate level of income whilst caring. Through their role, unpaid carers make a huge contribution which is undoubtedly helping to support the NHS, social care and society as a whole.

Yet evidence shows significant numbers of unpaid carers are finding themselves in poverty and significant financial hardship as a result of their caring role. The recent cost of living crisis has only made the situation worse with many carers now struggling to survive.

Carers who provide more hours of care and provide care for longer periods of time are  twice as likely to be struggling to make ends meet.[vi] Currently, the social security system does not adequately support these carers.

The next Government must take significant steps to tackle the poverty unpaid carers are facing head on, by:

  • Conducting an urgent inquiry into the relationship between unpaid care and poverty, with recommendations to identify and prevent unpaid carers from falling into poverty in the first place.
  • Reviewing and reforming the social security system to better support carers, including a review of Carer’s Allowance and means-tested benefits relating to carers, including the Carer Element, Carer Premium and Carer Addition.
  • Commissioning projects and campaigns to increase awareness and identification of carers and support to apply for benefits they may be entitled to.


Supporting carers at all stages of their caring journey

Whether someone is young or old, they should be fully supported in their unpaid caring role. Yet families with young carers aged under 18 are more likely to be in poverty. Although Carer’s Allowance is available to anyone over the age of 16, there is a rule that means that if someone is in full time education, studying for over 21 hours a week, they are not eligible to receive Carer’s Allowance. In practice this means that many young and young adult carers wishing to study often have to choose between getting an education and receiving Carer’s Allowance.

Despite providing substantial levels of care, most older carers who are over the State Pension Age do not receive Carer’s Allowance due to the overlapping benefits rule. Providing additional payments for this group would help to meet the costs of caring as well as providing recognition of their role, especially as many carers end up with lower pensions due to leaving paid work earlier.

A significant proportion (20%) of carers said they were struggling to make ends meet after their caring role ended, and 35% said that their financial situation had got worse since they began caring.[vii] A longer transition period of 12 weeks someone’s caring role ends, rather than the current 8 weeks, would better support carers as they make plans to re-join the workforce, after what may have been a significant period out of work.

The next Government must:

  • Extend financial and practical support for carers whose role has come to an end, from 8 weeks to 12 weeks.
  • Provide better support for younger carers to enable them to train, gain workplace skills and attain a decent income later in life.
  • Introduce a Young Carers Grant and remove the 21 hour study rule for Carer’s Allowance across the UK to match Scotland.
  • Provide an additional payment for carers of State Pension Age.


Reforming Carer’s Allowance

In just a decade, the rate of poverty for carers in receipt of Carer’s Allowance more than doubled, from 16% in 2010/11 to 34% in 2020/21. Current levels of support for those in receipt of Carer’s Allowance are not sufficient to keep unpaid carers financially secure and resilient. Although the level of this benefit has been increased over the years, it has not kept pace with ‘in year’ changes to Consumer Price Index (CPI) inflation and remains one of the lowest benefits of its kind, at just £81.90 in 2024/25.

Carer’s Allowance is in the process of being reformed in Scotland. Over the past 6 years,[viii] carers in Scotland have been receiving a Carer’s Allowance Supplement - currently worth £577.20 per year - in recognition of their role and the inadequacy of Carer’s Allowance levels.

The next Government must commission a full review into Carer’s Allowance and its eligibility rules to ensure that it adequately values and supports carers. This review should include:

  • Increasing the level of Carer’s Allowance, so that it better reflects the level of financial penalty carers incur.
  • Increasing the earnings limit and pegging it to National Living Wage increases.
  • Scrapping the 21 hour study rule.
  • Adding hours of care together if someone is caring for more than one person.
  • Exploring different payments for people providing 20, 35, 50+ hours of care, to take account of the intensity of caring.
  • Modernising and digitising Carer’s Allowance processes.
  • Provide an additional payment for carers of State Pension Age.


Making work pay

Unpaid carers, make up a significant proportion of the workforce, with 1 in 7 of all employees currently juggling work and unpaid care.[ix] For those carers who are able to combine paid work with caring, working is an important way to top up their incomes and preserve their financial security in the future, including pension savings.

However, we know that many unpaid carers are forced to reduce their working hours or leave work altogether. Nearly two-thirds (64%) of unpaid carers say they have been forced to give up paid work altogether or reduce their paid hours because of the pressures of their caring role.[x] This has a huge impact on the availability of skilled workers in the economy, particularly in sectors like the NHS and adult social care, and in turn negatively impacts productivity and growth.

The next Government must develop a comprehensive plan for supporting unpaid carers to stay in and return to paid work, where this is possible alongside their caring role by:

  • Introducing better employment rights for unpaid carers, including the introduction of at least two weeks of paid Carer’s Leave and increased flexible working rights.
  • Commissioning specialist support for carers who have not been in paid employment for some time, including financial and practical support, work placements and confidence building.
  • Changing eligibility criteria for certain carers’ benefits, to enable more carers to combine paid work and unpaid care.
  • Providing long-term funding for adult social care to support carers juggling work and care and seeing this as a prerequisite to allowing many carers to participate in the labour market.
  • Producing guidance for employers on better support for unpaid carers in the workplace and encouragement for more employers to join benchmarking schemes such as Carer Confident and Carer Positive.
  • Making caring the 10th protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010, to ensure that carers are protected from discrimination in the workplace and other areas.


Read our 2024 Manifesto, which outlines our asks of Government ahead of the General Election


[i] Carers Week charities, I care, 2023.

[ii] Carers UK, Unseen and Undervalued, 2020

[iii] Joseph Rowntree Foundation, The caring penalty, 2023.

[iv] Joseph Rowntree Foundation, UK Poverty 2024: The essential guide to understanding poverty in the UK, 2024.

[v] Joseph Rowntree Foundation, UK Poverty 2022: The essential guide to understanding poverty in the UK, 2022.

[vi] Carers UK, Heading for crisis caught between caring and rising costs, 2022.

[vii] Carers UK, The Experiences of Former Carers, 2023.

[viii] Alliance Scotland article, accessed 29 Feb 2024.

[ix] Carers UK, Juggling work and care, 2019.

[x] Carers Trust, Pushed to the Edge: Life for unpaid carers in the UK.

Carer Poverty Coalition General Election Manifesto 2024

Cpcmanifesto24 Web



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