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Landmark summit on helping families to juggle work and care

20 June 2012

During Carers Week, employers and HM Government commit to new working group to deliver a 'triple win' for families, employers and the economy.

Today, at a joint summit, business leaders and Government have pledged to take joint action to support families to juggle work with caring for ill, frail and disabled loved ones.

The summit, the first of its kind to focus on care and employment, was jointly hosted by BT and Care Services Minister, Paul Burstow MP and was attended by business leaders, care providers, care technology developers, local government representatives, and European labour market experts.

Alongside evidence from Carers UK on the impact on families’ finances and career prospects of giving up work to care[1]; the summit saw evidence from employers, including BT, Sainsbury’s and PricewaterhouseCoopers, who report increasing numbers of employees struggling to juggle work with caring for older and disabled relatives. In addition to workplace stress, the business community is facing increasing costs in retraining and recruitment, as an estimated 1 million people are forced to quit their jobs[2], often at the peak of their careers and experience, because they are unable to find the support they need to combine work with caring responsibilities.

Business forum Employers for Carers, chaired by BT and with a membership of over 50 major employers, has led the way in promoting good workplace practice to support staff with caring responsibilities – pointing to the real business benefits in reduced stress and sickness absence and improved staff retention.

To explore how employers, statutory services and providers can work better together, Care Services Minister Paul Burstow announced at the summit the creation of a new joint working group between Government and employers. The group will look at how reform and innovation in the social care system and stimulation of the market in care services could help provide staff with the support they need to stay in work alongside caring responsibilities.

Paul Burstow MP, Minister for Care Services, said: ‘As we prepare to publish plans on the future of care for older and disabled people, this summit has kick-started joint action between Government and the business community to work together on helping carers to juggle work and care. Helping families to stay in work alongside caring not only helps carers’ careers and family finances but is crucial for our workforce and economy.’

Caroline Waters OBE, Director of People and Policy for BT Group and Chair of Employers for Carers said: ‘We are seeing the mounting costs, not just to families but to business of a care system that often cannot support carers to juggle work with care. Stimulating the care market can deliver an economic triple win – better services for families, the infrastructure to help employers retain skilled staff and a real boost to economic growth.’

Helena Herklots, Chief Executive of Carers UK said: ‘Family life is changing and services and workplaces must keep pace. As more and more of us juggle work with childcare and support for older and disabled relatives, we need the services and support to back us up. It is crucial that carers’ organisations, Government and employers come together to turn the demographic challenge of rising demand for care into an economic opportunity.’

Norman Lamb, Minister for Employment Relations, Department of Business, Innovation and Skills said: ‘In tough times employers need to keep their best talent. The expansion of flexible working practices in the care market can help to deliver the services families and business need to help carers stay in work, as well as having the potential to be a real engine for growth.’

[1] The Cost of Caring (2011) Carers UK

[2] One million give up work to care (2009) Carers UK and Department of Work and Pensions

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