Austerity and the plight of older carers | Letter

Prof Rachel Forrester-Jones writes in response to a letter by Barbara MacArthur, who at 93 still cares for her disabled adult son

Barbara MacArthur’s letter (At 93, I am still my son’s sole carer, 29 July) will resonate strongly with so many older carers in the UK – yet still their plight is not properly acknowledged. Even before the pandemic hit, 7.6 million family carers in the UK were recorded to be providing around 149 million hours of care per week – equal to 4 million full-time paid carers.

Covid-19 has since exacerbated these challenges. In my report, “Confronting a looming crisis”, the average age of carers for loved ones with a learning disability and/or autism was 75, and over 20% were over 80 years old. Their accounts demonstrated their huge resilience in caring for their loved ones in the face of inadequate support from social services.

In our other recent study, we found that over 40% of people with learning disabilities had lost care and support over the past decade as a result of austerity. This meant that the responsibility again rebounded on to family members and the third sector. That Barbara has had to reach out in this way is heartbreaking.
Rachel Forrester-Jones
Professor of social policy and director of the Centre for Analysis of Social Policy, University of Bath

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