There are opportunities in the Carer’s Action Plan 2018-20 – let’s seize them!
As a working carer of fifty years, I warmly welcome the long awaited Carers Action Plan 2018-2020 and its recognition that ‘it makes good business sense to consider what flexible working practices might help both the employer and the employee’.
In my working life, I have seen the childcare debate virtually won. The business case has been made for supporting (and thereby retaining) parents in the workplace. But children grow up and demographic challenges begin. Suddenly we become ‘sandwich carers’, balancing care needs, hospital appointments and complicated medication regimes with employment.
What would have an immediate impact on the well-being of working carers? Chris Jeffery argues strongly for the right to paid carers’ leave, saying:
“Since I first launched my campaign ‘Mending the Gap in 2009, to raise awareness of the importance of paid carers’ leave for those struggling to juggle work alongside caring for a family member, so many people have asked why this does not happen already.
“My response reflects my own family situation – I have all too often seen what happens when working family carers struggle to balance work with ever-changing care needs. All too often they neglect their own health and well-being and even give up work altogether. Surely enabling people to combine work with caring for a sick or elderly family member deserves both recognition and support. We should be able to do better for 2lt century carers.”
We know that around 54% of carers give up employment because of the struggles to find suitable support and lack of employer awareness of their needs. We also know that this matters for the employers who often lose skilled workers at the height of their careers and who are hard to replace. Centrica (2016) estimates that they saw a potential saving of £2.5million through supporting staff who care. BT in turn estimates that they have seen a 21% increase in productivity through supporting carers, with reduced workplace stress and absenteeism.
But I end with a final thought on co-production because in an ageing society, new partnerships between carers, employers, the public and third sectors will be increasingly important. Membership of Employers for Carers demonstrates growing awareness of the business case for proactively supporting carers. As TLAP has also shown in its Top Tips for Supporting Working Carers, carers are everybody’s business if we value the healthy, emotional and economic well-being of our communities.
The Action Plan for Carers tells us that DH, DWP, DBEIS and the Treasury are working together in a new partnership to ‘consider the question of dedicated employment rights for carers alongside existing employment rights.’ Perhaps we could seize the opportunity and begin by promoting the cost-benefits of paid carers’ leave – we carers are worth it!