Behind the headlines

The struggle to care for relatives, young and old, looks set to
worsen, a study from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has found.
Pressures to stay in work for longer are making employment
difficult to reconcile with caring responsibilities, the report
says. It finds that people aged between 50 and retirement age are a
“pivot” generation, often combining work and care roles. Two-thirds
of this group have paid jobs, while 60 per cent of 50-year-olds
have parents who are still alive and one-third have grandchildren.
The lives of almost half of those with caring responsibilities had
been made more stressful and a third said it left them with less
time for their family and themselves. Carers’ health was also
likely to suffer. The researchers found widespread reluctance among
the 1,000 employees older than 50 to give up their jobs in order to
take up caring, either to look after an elderly parent or a
grandchild, although some were willing to reduce their hours.
Report co-author June Statham said: “Without more resources to
support carers in and out of work their contribution may not be

Bob Hudson, principal research fellow, Nuffield
Institute for Health, University of Leeds
“Basically, those who are willing to care full time need a
better financial reward to compensate them for forgone
alternatives. Those who wish to combine a work role and some caring
role should be supported in the workplace or through home working
arrangements; and those who wish to stay in full-time work need
confidence that their loved ones have proper alternative support.
The contribution of the invisible army has always been taken for
granted in public expenditure calculations. This cannot

Felicity Collier, chief executive, Baaf Adoption and
“Surely it is about choice – we are living much longer,
our aspirations are different and we must respect grandparents’
(usually grandmothers’) choice, just as we respect now the choice
of parents to work. If we want to encourage grandparents to ‘care’,
rather than work outside the home, they need to be properly valued
and to have financial recognition according to their contribution.
At least the High Court recognised this when it ordered Manchester
City Council to pay grandparents who were fostering the same rate
as for other foster carers.”

Bill Badham, development officer, National Youth
“When researchers in Nottingham wanted to know children’s
and parents’ views on child care, they interviewed adults out and
about with children. They were stunned at the number of
grandparents looking after their grandchildren for the day or
permanently. But perhaps demography will help, with fewer children
and more elderly forecast. I doubt it. And while we are on the
subject, let’s not forget the 51,000 young carers who are often

Phil Frampton, national chairperson, Care Leavers
“There are no easy answers regarding care for an ageing
population but it is for the trade unions and pensioners’
organisations to give a lead in the debate. The trade unions are
crucial to ensure that decent work packages are secured so that all
those who wish to can care for their relatives.”

Martin Green, chief executive, Counsel and Care for the
“The Joseph Rowntree research highlights an issue that
will become even more of a problem in the future. People in their
50s and 60s are often carers at both ends of the life cycle, often
caring for grandchildren and older parents. As there is greater
pressure placed on them in the workplace, they will have less time
and energy to meet these vital caring commitments. At a time when
the rhetoric of flexible working is everywhere, the reality of work
pressures is very different for many people. Carers provide a vital
service to the community and we must ensure that we support them to
balance their work and their caring responsibilities.”

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