Skip to Content Skip to Navigation
Member Login

Member login

No account? JOIN US

NI carers save government £4.6 billion a year

12 November 2015

Northern Ireland’s carers save economy £4.6 billion a year – the cost of a second NHS

Today, a new report1 from Carers UK and the University of Sheffield reveals that the 220,5012 people who provide unpaid care for a disabled, seriously-ill or older loved one in Northern Ireland save the state £4.6 billion a year – the cost of a second NHS3.  

The report, Valuing Carers 2015 – the rising value of carers’ support, is the third in a series looking at the value of carers’ support to the UK economy. It shows a staggering increase in the value of carers’ support in Northern Ireland since 2001, almost doubling from £2.5 billion to £4.6 billion. Researchers attribute this rise to a dramatic increase in the number of hours people are caring for, combined with an increase in the cost of replacement care4.

In light of today’s report, Carers NI’s Interim Director Simon Hodgson has warned: “Given how much the state depends on carers to look after their family members and friends, it wouldn’t take a huge number of them to break down under the pressure of caring to push the health and social care system into crisis. As the pressure on families to provide more care with less support increases, this is a real and present danger.”

Today’s report reveals that more people are caring for a loved one than ever before. Since 2001, the carer population in Northern Ireland has grown by 19.6% to reach 220,501; vastly outstripping the growth of Norther Ireland’s general population during this same period (9.8%)5.

Not only are more people caring, but they are caring for longer. Since 2001, the number of people providing 20-49 hours of care a week in Northern Ireland has increased by 30% and those providing 50 hours of care or more a week has increased by 26%.

The number of people needing care, and those needing care for longer periods of time, has increased significantly since 2001. However, as the Northern Ireland population continues to age, community care services are unable to keep pace with the demand.

Simon Hodgson, Interim Director of Carers NI, said:  

“Even though caring is part and parcel of life and affects most of us at some point, people in general don’t understand just how much society depends on the unpaid care provided by family and friends. Just a small percentage of people becoming unable to care would have a catastrophic economic impact.

“Transforming Your Care, which aims to improve the care provided for people and families across Northern Ireland, promised that there would be more opportunities for care to be provided in people’s own homes, rather than in residential settings or hospitals. While this is what most people want, we have constantly warned that if this is not supported by high quality domiciliary care provision, the extra pressure on families will push them to breaking point.

“At a time when carers should be getting more support, care provision is not keeping pace with demand. Carers need to be supported better to look after both themselves and their loved ones; otherwise the pressure on health and social care services will become intolerable.

“The Northern Ireland Government must work harder to recognise the massive contribution that carers make to society and support both them financially and practically with high quality social care services and more opportunities to get a break from caring.”


Sue Yeandle, Professor of Sociology at the University of Sheffield and Director of CIRCLE (Centre for International Research on care, Labour and Equalities) co-authored the report. Professor Yeandle 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.

“There are more people caring for a loved one, and more people needing care, than ever before. This increase has occurred in the context of large reductions to home care services in recent years, raising serious concerns about whether the services families need to help them care well and have a life alongside caring will be there in the future. Carers are doing more than ever to support others; we must ensure that they get the support and recognition they need and deserve.”

The report outlines a number of key recommendations from Carers UK ahead of the Treasury’s Comprehensive Spending Review on 25 November. These include:

  • Urgently address the chronic underfunding of the social care system: The pressure on carers to provide greater levels of care with reducing levels of support is unsustainable. A lack of adequate, sufficient or affordable care services to back-up families and enable them to have a life of their own alongside caring is pushing them to breaking point. Also, the future health of the NHS depends on a properly funded social care system.
  • Improve financial support for carers: Nearly half of carers providing the greatest levels of support have told Carers UK that they are struggling to make ends meet. The Government must set out a clear strategy for improving carers’ incomes and this must form a key part of the new cross-Government Carers Strategy.
  • Promote a carer-friendly NHS: A new stream of work to make the NHS more responsive to the needs of carers, such as introducing annual health checks or Carers Passports, is imperative to promoting the health of carers and enabling them to provide care without putting their own health at risk.
  • Introduce a right to paid care leave: Nearly half of carers are in work but many struggle with the strain of juggling work and care.  As demand for care continues to increase and the state retirement age rises, the dual pressure of balancing care and work is becoming a reality for more and more people. Carers UK is calling for a mandatory period of paid care leave of 5-10 days so that carers can juggle their caring responsibilities without it impacting negatively on their employment and, therefore, their financial security.
  • Stimulate a diverse care market to give carers better choice and flexibility: Far from replacing family care, strong social care support enables families and close friends to care while remaining part of the labour market, generating revenue for Government while securing their own long term financial security.

To download a copy of the report, visit:


1Valuing Carers 2015 – the rising value of carers’ support [2015] University of Sheffield, University of Leeds and CIRCLE, published by Carers UK

2 The figure of 220,501 carers in Northern Ireland is based on the latest official estimates of the UK population (2012-based Subnational Population Projections [2014] ONS). The Census 2011 puts the number of unpaid carers in Northern Ireland at 213,980

3The budget for health services in Northern Ireland is £4.65 billion for 2014-15 (Budget 2011-2015, Northern Ireland Executive)

4 The unit cost of replacement care in 2015 is £17.20/hour; increased from £17/hour in 2011 and £11.40/hour in 2001 (Personal social services expenditure and unit costs, final report, England: 2013 to 2014 [2014] ONS)

5 Based on Wales population estimates for 2015 (see reference 2) and Census 2001 Wales population figure

About Valuing Carers 2015 report

Valuing Carers 2015 – the rising value of carers’ support is the third in a series of research reports looking at the value to the UK economy of the support provided by unpaid carers.

This report is authored by Professor Sue Yeandle (University of Sheffield) and Dr Lisa Buckner (University of Leeds) and published by Carers UK.

About University of Sheffield

The University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities, with almost 26,000 of the brightest students from around 120 countries learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe. A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, it offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines and has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in the last decade in recognition of the outstanding contribution it makes to the UK’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.

About CIRCLE (Centre for International Research on Care, Labour and Equalities)

CIRCLE joined the University of Sheffield’s Faculty of Social Sciences, with its long-standing reputation for delivering world class research and commitment to addressing the major challenges facing society, in 2015. A wide range of the Faculty’s work is undertaken in partnership with non-academic organisations and its ideas lead academic debates internationally, shaping policy and practice across the globe.

Led by Directors Prof.Sue Yeandle and Dr. Andrea Wigfield, CIRCLE has specialised in research on care, carers and caring since its inception in 2006, and brings to the University its portfolio of research developed over more than a decade of collaboration and partnership with Carers UK. The centre works collaboratively to produce robust research to inform policy, practice and academic debate, and works with many partners in universities around the world and in the government, policymaker, NGO and private sectors. 

About University of Leeds

The University of Sheffield’s School of Sociology and Social Policy has a broad and active research programme that informs and enlightens academic teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate level.

Back to top