Ready for Ageing? - Select Committee on Public Service and Demographic Change Contents

Annex 15: Informal care (see paragraphs 35 and 36 of the report)

256.  Publicly funded care has never been able to meet all the needs of the minority of older people who are frail, vulnerable, ill or isolated. The bulk of care is and has always been provided within families, with twice as many unpaid carers in the UK—nearly 6.4 million—as there are paid staff in the health and social care systems combined.[444] As our society ages and these needs increase, yet more informal care from family and friends will be required. The number of disabled older people receiving informal care in England will need approximately to double over the next 20 years if supply is to keep pace with demand.[445] Carers UK told us that it has been estimated that nearly 3.5 million additional carers will be needed in the UK by 2037.[446]

257.  Demands on carers are already high. Steve McIntosh told us that the number of carers is rising rapidly, coupled with an increase in the intensity of the caring that they are providing: in the last decade the proportion of carers caring for over 50 hours a week has doubled.[447] Elderly parents may only have one child to care for them, and that child may no longer live nearby.[448] Currently one in seven employees combine work with caring responsibilities, and one in four carers has given up work to care, at an annual cost to the economy of £5.3 billion.[449] Pressure is also increasing on older carers. More men in their 70s and 80s are now looking after disabled wives, and Professor Rees told us that the age group of 55-69 year-olds, "the kind of age group that is going to be looking after their parents aged 80, 90 or 95", is projected to see very low growth, "while that of the people who need the care will grow very substantially."[450]

258.  The support provided to older people by informal carers is massively valuable to UK society, as well as to the economy. One valuation, from Carers UK, is that their contribution across the UK is worth £119 billion a year, more than the cost of the NHS.[451] Informal carers deserve our society's support for the work that they do, and such support will improve older people's wellbeing and carers' wellbeing, as well as result in savings in health and social care spending. Mike Farrar told us that "the most strategic use of the resources available to help care for older people" would involve "spending not a lot of money but spending it very effectively supporting partners and carers to have a higher level of skill". He concluded that "some of that money should be spent by the state in helping them to be able to care for their loved ones maybe six months longer than otherwise", allowing the older person to stay in their own home for longer, and saving six months of hospital or care home costs.[452] Professor Knapp highlighted carer support and looking after the health and wellbeing of carers as one of the areas of intervention for which there is the strongest evidential case.[453] The Committee calls for employers to make it easier for employees to provide informal care, and for the Government to promote how crucial this will be as demand rises. We welcome the Government's recent focus on supporting carers in the draft Care and Support Bill, and urge them to continue to actively address how informal carers can best be supported and trained, including by care professionals.

259.  As we have explored above and in Annex 3, the contribution being made to our society by older people is already vast, but our increasing lifespan offers a fantastic opportunity for older people to play an even greater role in public life, and we must not miss it.[454]

260.  We recognise the very valuable work already done by a number of charities such as Age UK, WRVS, Alzheimer's Society and Carers UK, to support older people. Voluntary and community engagement can support people to stay connected to their communities, reducing social isolation and loneliness.[455] Professor Goldblatt argued for the benefits of the "young elderly" supporting the "older elderly", forming a mutually beneficial network that reduces isolation as people move through older age.[456] Loneliness and isolation have an important impact on quality of life, and a very harmful effect on physical and mental wellbeing—we heard from Shaun Gallagher, Acting DG for Social Care, Local Government and Care Partnerships, Department of Health, that together they were "one of the biggest risk factors for people needing care and support".[457] Norman Lamb MP agreed that "Just a bit of companionship keeping the mind active can do an enormous amount to maintain independence and happiness, which is quite an important concept and can reduce the cost to the system".[458]

261.  Mr Lamb stressed the need to recognise that "People in retirement so often want to give, want to help, want to give back, but often do not know how to". It is also important to ensure that risk-aversion does not get in the way of volunteering, as Martin Green argued.[459] Mr Lamb was enthusiastic that "We can unleash the power of people in their communities", especially to combat isolation.[460] The Committee recommends that central and local government should work together with the third sector to increase volunteering especially by older people to support other older people. The Government promoted the taking up of over a million youth volunteering opportunities through the 'v' programme.[461]

444   Carers UK. Back

445   Central Government (DoH, DWP, DCLG), written evidence. Back

446   Carers UK. Back

447   Q 277 Back

448   Q 96 (Professor Harper). Back

449   Carers UK; Age UK. Back

450   Q 96 (Professor Rees). Back

451   Carers UK, Valuing Carers 2011, L. Buckner and S. Yeandle. Back

452   Q 307 Back

453   Q 328 Back

454   National Housing Federation; Age UK; Q 100 (Professor Harper). Back

455   Q 63 (Shaun Gallagher); Q 501 (Len Street, University of the Third Age (U3A)). Back

456   Q 543 Back

457   Q 393; Joseph Rowntree Housing Trust supplementary written evidence; Q 502 (Dr Mitchell); Cambridge Past, Present and Future; Age UK; Older People's Commissioner for Wales; Q 62. Back

458   Q 682; the Government's Campaign to End Loneliness was described in the Central Government (DoH and DWP), further supplementary written evidence. Back

459   Q 414 Back

460   Q 682 Back

461   vInspired. Back

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