NEW FINDINGS from Carers UK and the University of Sheffield show that unpaid carers in England and Wales contribute £445 million to the economy in England and Wales every day – that is £162 billion per year.

The value of unpaid care is equivalent to a second NHS in England and Wales, which in 2020/21 received an estimated £164 billion in funding.

Unpaid carers are those looking after relatives or friends who have a disability, illness, mental health condition or who need extra help as they grow older.

Despite increases to NHS funding over the last 10 years, increases to social care funding have not kept pace and the care system is now relying ever more heavily on unpaid carers to prop it up. Providing increasing hours of unpaid care, family members have no choice but to give up work or reduce their hours to do so, also putting their physical and mental health needs to one side.

The economic value of unpaid care in England and Wales in 2021 – now estimated to be £162 billion – is almost a third (29 per cent) higher than the value of unpaid care in 2011.

The statistical analysis reveals that unpaid carers are, as individuals, providing more hours of care than they were 10 years ago. While the latest 2021 census data shows there are fewer carers in England and Wales than in 2011, the number of hours of care they provide has shot up – leading to their higher economic contribution.

Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said: “It is deeply concerning that the increase in the value of unpaid care over the last decade is a result of fewer carers providing more hours of care. The ever-declining availability of social care means there is shrinking support for families to pull on – and they are left without a choice but to put other areas of their life on hold and provide more care.

“Having to care round the clock for a loved one has significant implications for people’s ability to stay in paid work, remain financially resilient and maintain their health. Lacking adequate support, unpaid carers feel they are being taken for granted.

“The Government must show that it values and supports unpaid carers by investing in and delivering quality care services for families in the longer-term. Carers need a funded National Carers Strategy and recognition within the NHS. For hundreds of thousands of carers on low incomes, they are desperate to see their financial support urgently reviewed.”

Leading the research, Professor Matt Bennett, Deputy Director of the Centre for Care at the University of Sheffield said: “The economic contribution made by unpaid carers has increased by 29 per cent in the last decade and paints a stark picture of the savings they make to health care budgets. Without unpaid carers, our health and social care systems would collapse. In fact, our work shows that people are providing more hours of unpaid care than ever before. We hope policy makers see the urgent need to act to support unpaid carers.”

* Read the Valuing Carers report here.

* Source: Carers UK