This week Carers UK published the Juggling Work and Unpaid Care report. The report finds that caring, unpaid, for older and disabled relatives is “an increasing issue for our time and one that is affecting more families and friends in both the UK and throughout the world.” Current census statistics suggest that around 12% of the population are caring for a relative or friend. But, people often don’t recognise what unpaid caring is, or what it entails. We know that carers can take years to identify themselves as carers, meaning that reported numbers could be lower than the reality.
Here at tide we frequently hear about the the stress of balancing work and caring for some one with dementia from our members. In fact, 93% of working carers in the UK report that looking after someone with dementia has affected their capacity to work, according to Age Scotland. This adds additional financial strains to the lives of carers, with 62% of carers worrying about their finances, as well as the impact of cuts in funding for services used by the people they care for.
This issue also dis-proportionally affects women, with the 2011 census showing that 20% of women reported having unpaid caring responsibilities, compared to 13% of men. These numbers are even higher in relation to the carers of people living with dementia, with between 60 and 70 per cent of all unpaid carers of people with dementia being women. Women provide the bulk of intensive, 24-hour care for people living with dementia. Dementia : through the eyes of women finds that over a fifth of women carers have had to leave paid work entirely and another fifth have gone from working full time to part time.
So what can be done? The top three interventions that workers thought would be most helpful if they were caring alongside work were a supportive line manager, flexible working and additional paid care leave (between five and ten days). Under the Equality Act 2010 employees living with dementia or caring for someone who is living with dementia have the right to request flexible working from their first day in post, and as many times as they need to each year. Employees who are caring for someone who is living with dementia will need flexibility and support from their employers and a recognition that the demands on them will increase as the dementia progresses. There are a number of positive actions that employers can take now to ensure that they are becoming a more carer positive employer:
- Flexible and special arrangements for caring leave
- Publicity about and recognition of carers in the workplace so that they would feel able to ask for help
- More flexible arrangements for working hours and patterns, including remote working
- Information about support available to dementia carers
- Opportunities to link with other employees, who are carers of people with dementia or in a similar situation to enhance a more peer support network
- Emergency or back-up care or support arranged by their employer
- Support for reducing stress and and improving their own well being
“I welcome this report and emphasise that given carers make up 44% of the dementia workforce, the whole care system would implode without their input. It is therefore imperative that both in the public and corporate sector, as employers we undertake some work to help identify carers of people living with dementia and ensure that they are offered the flexibility to continue in paid employment as part of their rights under the Equality Act”
Anna Gaughan, CEO tide and Life Story Network
This is an area that we are keen to work on more as we expand our work across the UK. We would appreciate your thoughts and experiences on this issue, so please comment below or reach out to us on social media or via email.