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Carers save UK £87 billion per year

New report shows 52 per cent increase in value of unpaid care - more than total annual spend on NHS.

The value of unpaid support that carers provide has now reached £87 billion a year according to a new report (1) published today (Thursday 20 September 2007) by Carers UK - more than the annual total spend on the NHS, which stood at £82 billion in the year 2006-7.

The new figures, calculated by the University of Leeds for Carers UK - the leading charity for people caring for their sick, disabled or frail relatives and partners, are 52 per cent higher than previous estimates of how much carers save the UK (2) - £57 billion in 2002 - and the average carer is saving the nation over £15,260 a year.

The new figures are also more than four times the amount spent on social care services for adults and children by local authorities each year - £19.3 billion in the year 2005-2006.

The dramatic rise in the value of carers' support is a warning to policy makers about the extent to which our economy relies on the care provided by family and friends. It shows that if only a small number were to give up caring - perhaps through ill health or lack of support - the economic impact could be disastrous. Given our demographics and ageing population, it shows the urgent need for better recognition and support for carers.

Many carers remain isolated and unsupported, with thousands living in poverty and unable to take up paid work or have a normal social life. On the eve of Gordon Brown's first Labour Party Conference as Prime Minister, Carers UK wants Government to recognise the huge contribution made by carers.

Imelda Redmond, Chief Executive of Carers UK says, "When you put a monetary value on carers' contribution to the economy, it shows the stark reality of the true costs. 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 put by Government into the NHS.

"It is ironic, given the billions they contribute to the economy, that so many carers are forced into poverty and a low quality of life. We need concerted action from Government, employers and public bodies to end social exclusion among carers. Carers are invaluable to the UK - it is time they were given the support and recognition to become valued and equal members of society.

"When we look at the wider economic impact, support to carers becomes even more significant. Every year, one in five carers gives up work to care. By 2034, an extra 3.4 million people could be caring, at a time when the economy needs more skilled workers. The contribution carers make is gradually being recognised in law and in government policies, but in the light of these figures today, developing and funding this support needs to be a urgent priority for all."

The rise in the value of carers' support can be put down to three factors:

The number of carers providing "significant" care has risen, owing to health and social care failing to keep pace with demand.
Although more hours of care are being provided in the community it is being provided to fewer people because they have increasingly complex needs. This leaves carers making up much of the shortfall.
Thirdly, the cost of replacement care has gone up, in line with other wages.

Although more hours of care are being provided in the community it is being provided to fewer people because they have increasingly complex needs. This leaves carers making up much of the shortfall.

Key recommendations in the report include:

1. Robust economic costing to determine the risk to the economy if insufficient care is provided in the future.
2. Significant investment in social care, including stimulation of the care market.
3. New legislation to make it illegal to discriminate against carers - in the same way that it is for disabled people.
4. A full scale review of carers' benefits; and the exploration of tax breaks and tax credits to help carers avoid poverty and remain in employment.
5. Sound policies which look at maximising independence and choice for the people being cared for and carers.
6. Clarity about the "social contract" for carers - what the state, employers, and others will provide and what individuals have to contribute.
7. New legislation that treats carers as partners in care.

For further information: 

Please contact the University of Leeds Press Office on +44 (0)113 343 4031 or email pressoffice@leeds.ac.uk


Notes to Editors
1. The report, Valuing Carers - calculating the value of unpaid care, is published by Carers UK and is available from http://www.carersuk.org/. The authors are Dr Lisa Buckner and Professor Sue Yeandle, University of Leeds.

2. Total NHS spending in 2006/7 was £81.678 billion. Source: Department of Health, Departmental Report 2007, published May 2007, The Stationery Office.

3. The last estimate of carers' support was valued at £57 billion a year in a report published by Carers UK, Without Us, 2002. The calculations were based on a formula published by the Institute of Actuaries.

4 Carers UK is the leading campaigning, policy and information organisation of and for carers. Carers UK continues to make a difference to carers' lives by: campaigning for a better deal for carers; informing carers of their rights and what help is available; training and advising professionals who work with carers; working across the UK through its membership and networks of branches and affiliates. For more information, visit http://www.carersuk.org/ or for advice on your caring situation call CarersLine on T. 0808 808 7777.

5. This work is part of a series of research reports published as part of the Action for Carers and Employment (ACE) National - a development partnership led by Carers UK and funded by the European Social Fund's Equal programme. This work aims raises awareness of the barriers facing carers who wish to work, and tests and promotes ways of supporting them. Visit http://www.acecarers.org.uk/

6. Carers UK will be debating these issues at all three party political conferences. For details of their programme of events, visit http://www.carersuk.org/Policyandpractice/PartyConferences

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