Tens of thousands who work and look after relatives could be forced into unemployment under further cuts to care, campaigners warn

In less than 10 years, a million people will be living with dementia, a number set to double by 2051, says the Alzheimer’s Society

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Tens of thousands of people who juggle work with looking after ageing relatives could be forced into unemployment if care for the elderly is subjected to further cuts by the Government, campaigners have warned.

In less than 10 years, a million people will be living with dementia, a number set to double by 2051, says the Alzheimer’s Society.

Many sufferers depend on family and partners to care for them, with that unpaid time valued at about £11.6bn – more than the £8.8bn spent by the NHS and councils each year, the charity says.

George McNamara, the head of policy at the Alzheimer’s Society, warned: “Further government cuts to social care could lead to tens of thousands of working people forced to give up their jobs to look after elderly relatives over the next five years.”

Speaking ahead of Dementia Awareness Week, which starts today, Mr McNamara added: “Workers can’t fit caring responsibilities into a lunch break. Looking after an elderly parent with dementia takes huge amounts of time, energy and emotional stress. Many carers will have no choice but to give up work unless they get better public services.”

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There are approximately 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK with the number expected to hit a million within the next 10 years (Getty)

Although the issue of improving access to childcare is recognised as a factor in helping people stay in jobs, or return to work, the same cannot be said when it comes to helping with the burden of elderly relatives, campaigners say.

“The Government has recognised the need to improve parents’ access to childcare to maintain economic recovery. But sidelining social care for a rapidly growing population of vulnerable older people also poses serious risks to the economy,” Mr McNamara said.

“Local authority budgets are at breaking point, economic growth is slowing and a massive wave of cuts in public service is imminent. We want the Government to end the crisis in social care and provide a vital lifeline for working families caring for elderly relatives.”

This comes after mounting concern in recent months over the future of social care. In February, David Sparks, the chairman of the Local Government Association (LGA), said: “Adult social care funding is in crisis” and the system is “buckling under the strain of inadequate funding”. And in March, Richard Hawkes, chairman of the Care and Support Alliance, said the “care system is on its knees”, with hundreds of thousands of older and disabled people cut out of the system.

Although the Tory manifesto pledged to “increase support for full-time unpaid carers”, it did not give explicit details of how it would achieve this. Significantly, it did not say that social care budgets would be protected from cuts. Details of wider government cuts planned for the next four years – which amount to at least £50bn – have yet to be announced.

 

Even under the cuts that have already been made, local councils face a shortfall of more than £5bn – £1.9bn of which is in adult social care – by the end of 2015-16, according to the LGA. About half a million older and disabled people who would have received care in 2009 are no longer entitled to it, researchers at the London School of Economics have reported. An estimated 50,000 carers were forced to give up their jobs last year because of caring responsibilities, with some 290,000 people having to balance looking after relatives with work commitments, according to the Centre of Economic and Business Research.

In a statement, a Department of Health spokesperson said: “We want to make sure those with dementia, their families and carers, get the help they need. That’s why we’re transforming the way people pay for care, capping the amount they have to pay and providing more financial help, as well as raising awareness of the condition like never before.

“Our Care Act and £5.3bn Better Care Fund – the biggest ever national programme to join up health and social care – will focus resources on helping people to live independently for as long as possible.”

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