Britain is losing more than £5bn a year as a result of a growing crisis in social care funding, which charities believe will only worsen unless ministers reverse cuts.
Around £4bn is lost in pay, because people are being forced to leave work to care for older or disabled relatives. If this money was received as wages, it would then be regenerated back in to the economy as wages are spent, as well as the Treasury losing £1bn that would have been taxed from the wages.
Additional to this is carers looking after relatives claiming around £300m in benefitis to help towards living costs.
A report by Age UK and Carers UK, building on work by the London School of Economics, highlighting these figures, claims that the problem will only worsen unless ministers reversed cuts made to budgets that are affecting services, and also settle the questions of long-term funding of social care.
Despite the number of older people rising, the care budget has been cut by £1.9bn in two years in England, according to social services chiefs. This means that eligibility for funding is tightened and care charges rise, which means that more people have to quit work to look after relatives who would previously have been included.
The report says that more than 300,000 people quit work in 2010-11 to look after relatives, and is increasing due to continuing cuts to care budgets.
Michelle Mitchell, the charity director general of Age UK, said:
Social care is being whittled down to the bone, resulting in families having to make agonising choices between earning a much-needed wage and leaving work to take on the role of full-time carer.
Further delays to reform the funding of the social care system will not only compromise the health and dignity of older and disabled people, but may well contribute towards stalling growth to the economy.
Helena Herklots, chief executive of Carers UK, said:
The national crisis in care is not just bringing a high personal cost to families – it is costing the UK billions.
The crisis is costing businesses and the economy hundreds of thousands of workers and the loss of their skills, tax contributions and spending power often because their families just cannot rely on support from the social care system to help them juggle work and care.
Liz Kendall, the shadow Social Care minister, said:
Our failing care system is harming the economy because unpaid family carers are being forced to quit their jobs or work reduced hours because they can't get the help they need.
The Government is completely out of touch with the care crisis. It needs to wake up and understand how improving care for older people and their families will boost our economy too.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said:
This Government is taking real action to help carers have a life outside of caring and remain in employment. Helping families to stay in work alongside caring not only helps carers' careers and family finances but is crucial for our workforce and economy.
We have committed to give carers the right to request flexible working and as part of our reforms of social care are working with employers, academics, the voluntary sector and carers themselves to explore ways in which those who give care can be further supported in employment.
Source: The Independent