By Debbie le Quesne

Archive for the ‘Walking the Tightrope’ Category

The importance of helping carers to keep working

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I often blog about care providers and those employed by them, but I’d like to focus on another group of care workers who are equally important – the unpaid, part-timers who generally tend for family.

Looking after loved-ones with long-term conditions is something I have witnessed first hand – the compromises, the relentless selflessness and, critically, trying to juggle work and failing.

A new report from Age UK and Carers UK, Walking the Tightrope finds that more than ten hours caring per week can stretch to breaking point an older worker’s ability to remain in employment.

How do people manage? How did I mange? Somehow we do.

And those caring for even five hours a week tend to pass up opportunities for promotion or overtime with a knock-on effect on retirement income and savings, the report states.

‘Doing the right thing’ can undermine a worker’s financial security.

According to Age UK and Carers UK, the impact of caring is not felt equally across all socio-economic groups. Those in higher skilled occupations such as managerial or professional roles are often more likely to be able to make smaller reductions in their working hours than those in lower skilled groups.

But the lack of affordable quality social care options, inflexible employers and poor work practices can drive carers out of employment.

The guy we use for our media, John Nash, has for nearly 30 years juggled work and care for a wife with MS.

In the early years he worked for a compassionate company who embraced the problem with him, offered flexible working arrangements, time off for medical appointments and a sympathetic ear at director level.

But it changed suddenly and overnight he was, in his own words, “working for dispassionate strangers” who insisted all hospital appointments should be taken as whole days of holiday entitlement instead of lieu days owing and essentially flexibility just vaporised.

Overnight, he found himself within a regimented regime in which he could no longer fulfill the necessary care duties required of him. Redundancy was his only real option.

But as they say, for every cloud . . . he now runs his own consultancy and we have a great working relationship with him.

This example (John has given permission for publication) is the tip of the iceberg.

Older workers are most likely to be carers and to be providing more hours of care, and they face particular difficulties.  The evidence indicates that the more hours of caring that are undertaken, the greater the impact on employment. This was so true of my experience and John’s too.

Excellent community care now enables John to continue to work – hardly surprising he is a champion of the direct funding model.

This new focus group research also highlights the profoundly negative psychological and emotional effects of withdrawing from the workplace.

It found many older carers experience increased feelings of loneliness and isolation following withdrawal from paid employment.

The Age UK/Carers UK report estimates that carers leaving employment is a substantial drain on the public purse; almost £1.3 billion a year when the costs of Carer’s Allowance and lost tax revenues on foregone incomes are taken into account.

Enabling people to successfully combine work with caring makes sense on an individual level, but the business case is also compelling.

The report estimates that supporting carers to stay in work could add an additional £5.3 billion a year to the economy.

Employers also lose out if talented and experienced employees leave work prematurely or are less able to do their job because of the demands on them.

What can be done to support those with caring responsibilities to remain in work?  The Carers in Employment (CIE) project, funded by the Department of Health, Department of Work and Pensions and the Equalities Unit is looking for answers.

This two-year learning and development programme which started in April 2015 is managed by SCIE. Pilots are funded to explore the different ways this challenge can be met.

The CIE programme is being evaluated by the Institute of Employment Studies to ascertain what works to support carers to remain in or to return to work. It reports in 2017.

Can you imagine what changes could happen if our domcare providers could get the funding we believe they deserve. Better care? Yes. A chance for workplace involvement for volunteer carers? Yes.

Alas I think I’m dreaming.


Written by debbielq

September 6, 2016 at 1:38 pm