Search Comment Central
Shutterstock 2303416639 1
Shutterstock / WD Stock Photos

Tackling the unpaid carer crisis could provide respite for trailing Tories

Ben Ashton
May 9, 2024

In the wake of last week’s local election drubbing, the Tories need all the help they can get. Fortunately, much needed respite could be at hand from an unlikely segment of the electorate.

The nation’s unpaid army of an estimated 10 million carers are the vital backbone of our country’s care system. Their regular care contributions to their friends, neighbours, and loved ones help to prevent a system already under strain from buckling. It is clear from recent polling, however, that decision makers have failed to recognise and reciprocate this contribution, leaving many carers in crisis.

The overarching figures show that unpaid carers feel let down and unsupported by successive governments, while also suggesting that a large proportion of this sizeable cohort of voters are so desperately in need of support and help that they would be willing to vote for almost any party that offered it. With the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats languishing in the polls, the political opportunity for the forthcoming general election is obvious.

The polling, commissioned by GoodOaks Homecare to support our You Are Not Alone campaign, found that 56 per cent of carers believed the government was ‘ineffectively’ supporting those providing unpaid care across the country. A mere six per cent thought the government was doing a “very” effective job.

The analysis suggests that this political apathy is an after-effect of real-life issues. When our poll probed carers’ wellbeing, the results were stark. More than half felt unable to meet their own health and wellbeing needs. The vast majority of these – 87 per cent – appear to be sacrificing the wellbeing of themselves to meet the needs of those they cared for. Nearly 1 in 10 felt unable to meet the wellbeing needs of either themselves or their loved ones.

How carers had specifically felt in the week prior to polling laid bare the impacts that a lack of effective support mechanisms can have. More than 60 per cent felt ‘stressed’ - a 50 per cent increase on the statistics of the wider public in the same period. Unpaid carers were also more than twice as likely to have felt lonely than the wider public.

It’s clear that carers place the need to address these issues at the forefront of their political priorities. Nearly two-thirds (65 per cent) said they would be “likely” to change their vote in favour of a party that proposed the introduction of further support measures. Less than 10 per cent of respondents said the opposite. It would be no surprise if this flexibility generated interest from a government searching for popular policies that might help to bridge the polling gap - particularly when unpaid carers could represent more than 6 million active voters.

But such decisions should hardly be deemed as a choice. It is clear they are a necessity. Of course, there are several support options currently available to unpaid carers, but to the majority, as these figures show, these are simply nowhere near sufficient to meet immediate need.

Proving a further stumbling block is a widespread lack of awareness of what these options are and what they mean. This is a fault of policymakers failing to communicate effectively. Our polling found, for example, that just 12 per cent of unpaid carers felt they had a “good understanding” of the newly introduced Carer’s Leave Act legislation. It is difficult to see, therefore, how the Act’s aims of improving carer finances and wellbeing can be fully realised given its lack of presence in carers’ psyche.

Though the Carers Leave Act proved the least well-known of the support options presented in the polling questions, other options including Carer’s Credit, Personal Independence Payments, Attendance Allowance and NHS Continuing Healthcare were well understood by less than half of all respondents.

There is evidently a visible – and concerning – crisis of wellbeing and awareness among Britain’s family carers. A concerted and deliberate effort to address these issues is needed, and needed now.

At a local level, this is what our You Are Not Alone campaign aims to do. Combining an online resource hub and dedicated helpline with local expertise and support, we hope to be able to provide unpaid carers with the resources and advice they may need to become fully aware of the different types of support and funding available to them. It also offers guides on health and wellbeing to tackle those issues so profoundly revealed in recent polling.

But our campaign can only go so far. The government must take the initiative themselves. It does not have to cost a mega-sum to work towards tackling these issues, and given that estimates place unpaid carers’ contributions to the economy at nearly 500 million per day, it seems only right that decision-makers do more. As Damien Green MP himself made clear in a foreword to our report, “unpaid carers deserve not just recognition but practical help to make their lives more comfortable.”

A concerted and deliberate effort to address these issues is needed, and needed now. Quote

The government could commit, for example, £200 million – around a day’s worth of NHS funding – to introduce measures to more effectively support unpaid carers. They could use this money to introduce funded training – providing free (or low cost) training programmes for carers to equip them with the necessary skills and knowledge to provide the best care, manage stress, and maintain their own health and wellbeing effectively. On a local level, this could improve individual care, but also more widely help to tackle skills shortages in the sector by alleviating some demand for other services.

The government could also introduce funding for additional services that are accessible to carers, such as counselling, support groups, and helplines – the latter of which we have introduced as part of our campaign. The value of bringing people together is clear, but the situation for many family carers at present is one of isolation, loneliness, and a lack of clear advice.

These proposals are not revolutionary, but they are achievable and could have a profound impact. An impact that will primarily provide much-needed support for unpaid carers, but might also have valuable repercussions for a collapsing Conservative vote. We know the value of unpaid carers to our society. It’s about time the government gave them the recognition that they deserve.


Ben Ashton is the Founder and Director of GoodOaks Homecare, an award-winning homecare company focused on providing quality care to individuals in their own homes. GoodOaks are behind the launch of a new support campaign for unpaid carers: You Are Not Alone

What to read next
Shutterstock 553734823
It is both my privilege and responsibility as MP for Angus...
Dave Doogan Portrait
Dave Doogan MP
April 25, 2024
Shutterstock 663459544
A theme of my recent articles has been to speak up...
1390 15x15 2023 03 10 205315 awuy
John Baron MP
April 18, 2024
Shutterstock 700142695
After three years in Holyrood, Scotland’s controversial hate crime law came...
Shutterstock 700142695
Sophie Kent
April 15, 2024