The government needs to recognise the growing number of older carers in its review of the 1999 strategy for carers, Counsel and Care campaigners urged today.
In a new policy paper, charity Counsel and Care called for the benefits system to be reformed so that when people reach pension age they still have access to carer’s allowance.
According to research from Sheffield Hallam University, carried out for Carers UK, there are 1.5 million people aged over 60 who provide unpaid care, of which 8,000 are aged over 90.
The paper, A New Strategy for Carers: Better support for families and carers of older people, further recommends that the government increases the carer’s allowance to equal the national minimum wage and to increase the carer’s premium for income support or pension credit. The paper is the third in a series of policy papers.
The paper’s author Caroline Bernard urges the government to work towards helping the six million unpaid carers in the UK work by promoting the right to flexible hours and extending tax exemptions to care vouchers.
Stephen Burke, chief executive of Counsel and Care, said: “Carers save the country more than the NHS budget alone. Not only do they freely look after people who are frail and disabled, they often have to withdraw from the labour market to do so, jeopardising their own financial futures. Furthermore, many carers jeopardise their physical and mental health as a result of their caring role.”
He added: “All carers, and the growing number of older carers, need to be better supported and empowered so they have a say in shaping services for them and the people they care for. It is essential that the new strategy for carers really acts upon the themes coming out of the widespread consultation.”