By Chris Gannon
A report published today by Age UK has shown how elderly carers are saving the UK economy billions every year.
Since 2009 the number of unpaid carers aged 80 and over has risen by nearly 39%, from 301,000 to 417,000 in 2016. These figures show how 1 in 7 people aged 80 and over now provide some form of care.
This is saving the state £5.9 billion every year.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK, said: “We owe a huge debt of gratitude to the hundreds of thousands of over-80s who are caring, many of them virtually full-time, saving the country nearly £6 billion a year in the process. More of that money needs spending on supporting them.”
Many carers are looking after their partner or disabled children. 144,000 are providing care for over 35 hours each week with a further 156,000 providing care for over 20 hours per week.
The findings come from a yearly representative household survey of 15,000 people aged 60 and older. The results were multiplied to give an estimate for the whole of the UK.
A person is classed as a provider of unpaid care if they look after or support someone with long-term physical or mental ill health or disability or problems related to old age.
According to the 2011 census around 57,000 people, roughly 10% of Sheffield’s 552,698 population, provided a level of unpaid care. 35,129 were working up to 19 hours a week, 7,732 were working between 20 and 49 hours a week and a further 14,512 were providing care for over 50 hours a week.
The wards with the highest number of carers were East and West Ecclesfield, Dore and Totley at 13%. The lowest numbers of people providing unpaid care were found in wards with high student and young populations. Only 5% of those living in the Broomhill and Central wards provided unpaid care.
Carers are calling for the government to increase investment in social care in order to meet the growing demand from a population that is living longer. It is estimated that there will be more than 760,000 carers aged 80 and beyond by 2030.
Emily Holzhausen OBE, Director of Policy at Carers UK, said: “Our ageing population calls for greater investment now, from Government, social care services and the NHS to meet the increasing demand for care but also support the rapidly expanding numbers of older people who are themselves providing care. Action is urgently needed to ensure that older carers have the support they need and are not left caring alone by shrinking support services.”
Community and Social Care Minister Alistair Burt said: “We owe a great deal to the love and determination of older carers. I want to make sure the government does everything it can to support them.”