The value of unpaid care in the UK now exceeds the NHS’s annual spend in England, says research.
Unpaid care is estimated to be worth £87b a year, up by 52% since 2002, which is four times more than the annual spend on social care services for adults and children across all UK local authorities.
Imelda Redmond, chief executive of Carers UK, said: “It is clear that without carers, our NHS and social care systems would collapse. Indeed their input is so vast that it has kept pace with the extra investment the government has put into the NHS.”
There are about 6m carers in the UK who provide unpaid support to family and friends, according to the 2001 Census. Of that six million, more than a fifth provide 50 or more hours of care each week.
The main benefit, Carer’s Allowance, gives carers £48.65 a week for carrying out at least 35 hours of care. The research from Leeds University estimates that each carer provides £15,260 of care every year.
Carers UK believes that the economy could collapse in the future if sufficient support is not provided for carers. It is calling on the government to “properly cost in economic terms” the value of care needs and to increase carer’s incomes to reflect their role in society. In a survey carried out by the Equal Opportunities Commission, one in five carers give up work each year to provide unpaid support.
Carers UK predict that the number of carers will rise by 3.4m by 2037, an increase of 60%. Redmond said: “We need concerted effort from government, employers and public bodies to end social exclusion among carers.”
The research was carried out by Lisa Buckner and Sue Yeandle from University of Leeds. It is part of a series of research reports published for the Action for Carers and Employment National, a development partnership led by Carers UK and funded by the European Social Fund’s Equal programme.