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Carers deserve a right to life outside caring

13 April 2011

Scotland’s 660,000 unpaid carers deserve the right to work, learn and live free of poverty.

Scotland’s national carers’ organisations(1)today call for politicians to support carers to have a life outside caring.

As politicians in the Scottish Election highlight the need to build the economy, reduce unemployment and offer learning and skills opportunities, Scotland cannot afford to leave unpaid carers behind.

Despite saving the economy £7.6 billion each year and sustaining health and social care, 20% of carers have had to give up work to care.  Carers retire earlier than their peers and employment rates are 7% lower that the national average.

Many carers have reduced hours of work, moved into a lower skilled job or turned down promotion or opportunities to have flexibility to manage caring and work responsibilities. Research estimates that carers lose out on an average of £11,822 per annum as a consequence.(2)  Giving up work in order to care results in an immediate loss of income as well as affecting carers’ ability to build up pensions or savings, extending the negative impact of caring on finances well into their futures.    

There is a compelling economic case for supporting carers in employment and to develop their skills. 
Within the UK a growing shortage of skilled workers affects organisations large and small.   Over half of small firms(3) in the service sector have reported facing difficulty in recruiting staff with the right skills.   At the same time the City and Guilds predict that the professions of teaching and medicine, the construction industry and call centres are all set to suffer from worsening skills shortages in the next 15 years.   The study also predicts that care workers and nurses will be particularly hard to recruit as the population gets older and demand for their services increases(4). 

An ageing population in Scotland and across the UK will also have a profound effect on unpaid carers.  The need for carers will inevitably increase at the same time as it is predicted that over the next 20 years the UK economy will need another 2 million people in the workforce.  This equates to some 200,000 people in Scotland.    This means that employers will need to widen their recruitment pool at the same time that society will see an increase in the need for care(5).  

Employment is a key route out of poverty
Caring has significant financial consequences. Research(6) has found that 72% of carers were worse off financially as a result of becoming carers. The reasons cited for this include giving up work to care and the inadequacy of disability benefits.  Over half of carers are in debt, with a third owing more than £10,000.   Almost three quarters of carers report living in fuel poverty and a third of carers paying rent or a mortgage cannot afford their payments and 79% are unable to afford essential repairs to their home.

Fiona Collie, speaking on behalf of the national carer organisations said:
“The economy, employment and skills are key campaign issues for this election.  The missing link so far is the strong economic case for recognising and supporting unpaid carers and young carers in this debate. We simply cannot afford to leave Scotland’s 660,000 carers behind.   And, if politicians do not commit to ensuring that the education, skills and employment aspirations of carers are met, a generation of Scotland’s 100,000 young carers could also be lost to the future labour market.   

So in terms of commitments made to date to expand apprenticeships and in the focus on reducing youth unemployment we need to see more specific commitments to unpaid carers and young carers – those in work and those seeking work.  Carers should also have opportunities to learn and, live free of poverty… simply put to have a life outside of their caring role and an opportunity to plan for their futures like others in the general population. 

“Reducing poverty is also high on the agenda for this Election yet carers face high levels of poverty simply by virtue of their caring role.  Poverty has an impact on all aspects of their lives, including health and wellbeing and opportunities for leisure and family life.  Ensuring that carers can remain in or join paid employment is one key route to reducing the poverty and its costs – to the economy, communities, and, most importantly, to individual carers.  

Carers face higher costs than the rest of the population and politicians in this election should also commit to reducing poverty amongst carers in other ways such as extending initiatives to reduce fuel poverty, ending the postcode lottery of care services charging  and ensuring carers have timely access to advice on benefits, tax credits and other financial support. The SNP’s commitment to extending Energy Assistance Packages to carers on Carers’ Allowance and the Scottish Green Party’s commitment to insulating every home are a welcome start, as is Labour’s commitment, if they secure power, to delivering carer friendly employment policies. However, much more needs to be done”.

For more information, interviews or case studies, please contact Fiona Collie on 0141 445 3070 email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., Lynn Williams on 0141 285 7936/07946 424127 email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Claire Cairns on 01786 825529 email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  NB: Fiona Collie and Claire Cairns are not available on Friday.

ENDS
Notes to Editor

1. You can view the full Carers Manifesto at www.carerscotland.org

2. FACTS ABOUT CARING

* 1 in 8 of the population is a carer
* There are almost 660,000 carers in Scotland; more than 115,000 people care for someone for more than 50 hours a week
* There are more than 100,000 young carers in Scotland, aged from 3 to 18 years of age, with 21% of that figure caring from 30-39 hours a week
* There are more carers than the total health and social care workforce
* Replacing the care provided by unpaid carers would cost thee-quarters of the total NHS budget in Scotland (£7.68 billion a year)
* By 2025, the economy will need to draw another 200,000 people into the workforce. We cannot afford to lose carers from the labour market.

3. Scotland’s national carer organisations are:

The Princess Royal Trust for Carers
Lynn Williams
0141 285 7936/07946 424127
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
www.carers.org and www.youngcarers.net

The Coalition of Carers Scotland
Claire Cairns
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
01786 825529

Carers Scotland
Fiona Collie
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
0141 445 3070

Crossroads Caring Scotland
Jack Ryan
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
0141 226 3793

The Scottish Young Carers Services Alliance
Louise Morgan
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
0141 221 5066

Shared Care Scotland
Don Williamson
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
01383 622462


4. References

1 Scotland’s national carers organisations are: Carers Scotland, Coalition of Carers in Scotland, Crossroads Caring Scotland, Princess Royal Trust for Carers, Scottish Young Carers Services Alliance and Shared Care Scotland.
2 Out of Pocket (2007), Carers UK
3 Figures from British Chamber of Commerce
4 City & Guilds.   (2005)   .Rare Species – Critical Skills for Tomorrow’s Future.  
5 TUC.   (2004)   Full Employment – the next steps,
6 Carers in Crisis, Carers Scotland/Carers UK 2008

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