Responding to the publication of independent review of the future of the State Pension age, Heléna Herklots CBE, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said:
“Today’s report on the State Pension age sets out important developments in social policy necessary to meet the societal shift in the way we live, work and care for each other. Some of these recommendations could make a difference to carers’ lives right now and should be a firm part of the Government’s Carers Strategy due to be published in Spring.
The report describes the increased challenge of working longer whilst having to care for a family relative as “a sleeping tiger”. Future changes to State Pension age must have at their heart the need to protect and support those with caring responsibilities. We therefore welcome recommendations to strengthen the rights base for carers in paid work through the introduction of Statutory Carers Leave and the proposal of further protections for those in financial hardship who will have to wait longer for the improved financial support that comes with access to the State Pension.
Growing numbers of employers are already recognising the importance of supporting carers in their workforce including with specific leave policies. Currently, three in five adult carers are aged 50 years and over, with the peak age for caring 50-54 making the introduction of a new statutory right to paid time off to provide care the necessary next step in creating the work, life, care balance needed.
Carers UK’s research suggests that over 2 million people have given up work at some point to provide care and a further 3 million people have reduced their hours putting serious financial pressure on many both in the short and long-term . The huge contribution that carers make to society by providing care to the value of £132 billion a year must be better reflected in the financial support provided to them. The report rightly recognises that our health and care system depend on the support provided by carers and they are a group that need to have their financial security protected.
In addition to stronger employment rights and greater support in the benefits system, the vital contribution that families make in providing care is only possible if health and care services support them to do this. The Government’s new industrial strategy needs to ensure that families have access to high quality, reliable and affordable social care allowing them to provide care without putting their lives and health on hold.”