For too long the work that carers do has gone unnoticed and unrewarded

Putting carers in the spotlight

Across the country there are more than six million people who give up their time to help loved ones. They might collect their medication, sort out their laundry, assist with managing their money or help them get ready in the morning. If you were to ask each of these six million about the support they provide, the vast majority would say they were just being a good relative, or neighbour, or friend. Very few would categorise themselves first and foremost as a carer.

If carers were paid the national minimum wage for the hours they work, or were employed directly by the state, the cost of care in this country would increase massively. Many carers do not consider the help that they provide as ‘work’ in the traditional sense, but the reality is a number of carers give up significant amounts of time and money, and are far too often taken for granted by government.

Carers – particularly family carers – are critical to enabling more treatment to take place closer to home, and indeed in the home itself. This has a significant benefit for the NHS as it keeps patients out of hospital, and can help to reduce rates of readmission. Developing and strengthening the care sector will be crucial in reforming the NHS and reconfiguring hospitals to ensure that people are able to get the personalised treatment they need free at the point of delivery and at the earliest possible opportunity.

For too long the work that carers do has gone unnoticed and unrewarded. We have an ageing society – thanks in no small part to the fantastic work of our NHS – and the average lifespan is steadily increasing. As people are living longer there is an increased demand for quality social care and health services.  The provision of services within the home is crucial, and carers will be the key to unlocking the potential of personalised care within the home, freeing up resources elsewhere.

If we are to rely on carers to help provide the best care for those who need it, we need to make sure that carers are given the recognition that they deserve. At a basic level this must extend to providing financial and respite support as a reward for the vital, demanding role they fulfil. It is also extremely important that carers are given access to the necessary training to equip them as well as possible to deal with the challenges they face.

Whilst caring for a family member is often seen in the context of supporting an elderly relative, those who support a partner or a child must be given the same recognition and support. Many carers are of a working age, and this can create issues with employers who feel uncomfortable with providing flexible working, giving employees the freedom to leave work to attend emergencies, and allowing time off in lieu.

Responsible employers who are able to work flexibly in partnership with their employees to make provision for their caring obligations will help to save the NHS money. This is a big step which requires businesses to look at a bigger picture than just the bottom line and factor in social obligations, but it also depends on carers having someone to stand up for them, and that’s where unions like Usdaw come in.

Usdaw is able to work with employers to negotiate flexible terms and conditions that take into account the needs of carers who have individual circumstances that need consideration. The future of health and social care will be centred on individual, personalised care, and there is no reason why personalised working tailored to individual needs should not also become the norm.

Today is Usdaw’s Spotlight Day which highlights the important contribution that carers make to society, and to make sure that carers are getting a fair deal. Although caring would form a vital part of the government’s ‘big society’, changes to tax credits suggests that carers and working families too will be penalised by a government that says one thing and does another. All carers are asking for is a fair deal.

Today is of course also Budget Day, and will be dominated by politicians and economists discussing the minutiae of monetary and fiscal policy. The Westminster world will obsess over the details, but for millions of carers their primary concern – as it is every day – will be making sure they are supporting their loved ones. Today, Usdaw is putting carers in the spotlight. The government should too.

One Response to For too long the work that carers do has gone unnoticed and unrewarded

  1. Linda Rae says:

    It is about time the government realised how much carers actually save them. To pay up front for all these people if they went into a home would cost at least four times as much.

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