Overcoming barriers: unpaid care and employment in England

Linda Pickard Completed   2011


Unpaid care and employment is a key policy issue in England. The Government’s Carers Strategy, Recognised, Valued and Supported, places high priority on supporting people of working age with caring responsibilities to remain in work, if they wish to do so.

Policy has until recently emphasised the role of employers in providing flexible working conditions, but there is now a new emphasis on ‘replacement care’ for the cared-for person.

The Government’s Carers Strategy emphasises developing “social care markets” to meet carers’ needs for “replacement care to enable them to continue to work”.

Revised guidance puts an onus on local authorities to provide services to the cared-for person when a carer’s employment is at risk. This is consistent with the Law Commission’s report on Adult Social Care, which shows that local authorities are already required to provide services to meet the needs of carers under certain circumstances, one of which is when a carer’s employment is at risk.


This scoping review explored barriers faced by unpaid carers to remaining in employment.


The project was a 12-month scoping study undertaken in 2011. It included a literature review, review of practice, consultation with key stakeholders, analysis of ELSA and the 2009/10 Survey of Carers in Households in England, and initial economic analysis.


  • An estimated 315,000 unpaid carers aged 16 to 64 in England, predominantly women, have left full-time or part-time employment to provide care
  • A key threshold at which carers in England are at risk of leaving employment occurs when care is provided for 10 or more hours a week, a lower threshold than previously thought
  • The public expenditure costs of carers leaving employment are estimated at £1.3 billion a year, based on the costs of Carers Allowance and lost tax revenues on foregone incomes alone
  • Access to publicly-funded services by working carers is low, with only 4% of carers working full-time, and 6% working part-time, currently offered an assessment or review
  • There is little evidence that councils systematically use services for the cared-for person as a means of supporting carers whose employment is at risk
  • Councils target their support at people providing care for 35 hours a week or more and are therefore not in contact with large numbers of carers whose employment is at risk
  • Despite an increasing emphasis in government policy on ‘replacement care’, the study has not found any scientific papers on the effectiveness of services for the cared-for person (‘replacement care’) as a means of supporting working carers in England
  • There is a need for further evidence to support the development of policies around ‘replacement care’ for working carers in England.


Journal paper

King D, Pickard L (2013) When is a carer’s employment at risk? Longitudinal analysis of unpaid care and employment in midlife in England, Health and Social Care in the Community, 21, 3, 303-314.


Findings from this study provided evidence to a Carers UK news release in May 2012, fed into Treasury discussions, and received considerable media attention at the time.

Overcoming barriers: unpaid care and employment in England
( https://www.sscr.nihr.ac.uk/wp-content/uploads/SSCR-research-findings_RF010.pdf )
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