Women are bearing the brunt of the government’s inaction on social care, Age UK has warned, with ‘sandwich carers’ among the worst hit.
In a damning report, published exactly two years after the government promised to publish the delayed Social Care Green Paper, the charity set out the huge challenges facing female carers.
‘Breaking Point: The social care burden on women’ showed that women make up 68% of the UK’s 1.25 million “sandwich carers”, those who have the twin responsibility of caring for sick, disabled or elderly relatives, as well as their own children.
Three quarters (73%) of sandwich carers provide under 10 hours of caring a week and one in fourteen (7%) over 35 hours per week – that’s 88,391 sandwich carers providing more than 35 hours of care to loved ones each week.
Eight out of ten sandwich carers providing over 35 hours per week are women – that’s 74,399 women providing more than 35 hours a week of care to loved ones whilst also raising a family, Age UK found.
The oldest sandwich carers, aged 55 to 64, provide the most care the most, with 29% of this age group providing more than 20 hours of caring a week.
In total, 78% of sandwich carers are in paid work, and of those sandwich carers providing 35 or more hours of care a week, 49% are working.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said: “Our new analysis shows there are over a million ‘sandwich carers’, almost all of whom are women, and they are one of the groups hit hardest by the lack of good care and support. Given the intense pressure on them it’s amazing that more don’t experience a break down, but there’s no doubt many are coping with much more than it is reasonable to expect. Most carers care willingly but they need more help than they receive, plus the chance for regular breaks.
“The Green Paper has been delayed five times now – it’s beyond a
joke. The cost of delay is very real and is falling on millions of disabled and
older people who are going without the support they need, and on their carers
like those in our report who are doing everything one could possibly ask and
more, and risking their health, wellbeing and financial security as a result.
“If the Government is serious about advancing the interests of women in our society one of the ways it can best help is by sorting out social care, once and for all. We need a definite date for publication of the Green Paper and strong cross Government support for social care reform – including money from the Treasury to pay for it.”
Responding to the report, Cllr Ian Hudspeth, Chairman of the Local Government Association’s Community Wellbeing Board, said: “Unpaid carers are the backbone of the care system, many of whom are unable to take a break, putting their own health on the line. Without these unsung heroes, who are predominantly women, the system would collapse.
“This vital network of carers is at an increasing risk of breaking down due to the nature of the job, rising costs and demands for care, and the crisis in adult social care funding.
“Over recent years, councils have protected adult social care relative to other services. But the scale of the overall funding picture for local government as a whole means adult social care services still face a £3.6 billion funding gap by 2025, just to maintain existing standards of care. The likely consequences of this are more and more people being unable to get quality and reliable care and support, which enables them to live more fulfilling lives.
“Plugging the immediate funding gap facing adult social care and finding a genuine long-term funding solution must therefore be an urgent priority for the Government.”