Carers save the UK £119bn a year, more than the entire cost of the NHS in England, a study published today by Carers UK has found.
The charity said the figures showed why social care and disability benefits ought to be protected from public spending cuts, otherwise more pressure would be put on carers.
The £119bn contribution is 37% higher than a previous estimate – £87bn – made by Carers UK in 2007, and is well above the £106bn NHS budget in England.
The rise since 2007 has been caused by an estimated 10% increase in the number of carers to nearly 6.5m. In addition, the unit cost of providing paid care at home in England has gone up from £14 to £18.
“It puts into perspective the contribution that families make to care,” said Imelda Redmond, chief executive of Carers UK. “We need policymakers to understand that the majority of care takes place within families so they adjust their thinking to get the right balance.”
She said it was significant that the cost of caring had overtaken that of the NHS because of the pride the public takes in the level of health spending.
Carers UK said the government should take a “social contract approach” to working with employers and voluntary groups to support carers.
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