For International Women’s Day 2020 our CEO, Claire Goodchild, celebrates the women carers who attend our courses for partners, family and friends taking care of someone with dementia.
Here at Dementia Carers Count we provide education and support services to all unpaid, informal carers of people with dementia, no matter what their relationship is to the person they care for; spouse, child, grandchild, close friend. We support carers of all genders but today, on International Women’s Day 2020, we’re celebrating women who care for a person with dementia. This year’s International Women’s Day theme is I am generation equality; realising women’s rights. So, let’s take a look at the rights of women who are carers.
Women embrace caring and that is something to be celebrated. Equally, it is a role that needs to be supported. 78% of the carers who use our services are women, nearly half of them caring for a parent, 30% caring for a partner and 8% caring for a friend.
In 2015 Professor Dawn Brooker and colleagues undertook a global evidence review about women and dementia. They found that according to a review of dementia and women, 60%-70% of unpaid carers are women and they are 2.8 times more likely to provide care for over five years.
Although women are disproportionately affected by dementia, societal expectations that women should provide care is one of the underlying reasons for there being ‘little evidence of policy being put in place and actioned in response to this.’
Women as carers
Access to support
Research shows that women carers often don’t receive as much support from family and support services as men do. We’ve heard from the people who attend our three-day residential course, that it’s only when other family members step up to provide support at home to the person with dementia, they appreciate the demands and the skills of the main carer. There is an expectation in most societies that women are the carers within families. However, women also have a place in the workforce and their wages are central to household incomes. With 40% cuts in funding to local authority social services it is essential that charities such as ours are here to support all carers. Women in particular have been hit hard by austerity and so, when the social care green paper is published it should include specific reference to what women need to support them in their caring role.
About 50% of the women that come to our three-day courses are in employment or education, they are managing work with caring and many of them have children still living at home. Practically, emotionally and psychologically they are juggling a lot of things.
National data shows that 20% of female carers have gone from full-time to part-time work, thus reducing their income and jeopardising their National Insurance contributions (although some are entitled to NI credit) and their pensions. 15% of all carers say they are not in work because of their caring responsibilities.
At Dementia Carers Count, sessions on finance and legal rights are an integral element of our three-day courses. Very frequently, we hear that our carers are struggling financially and don’t know about their entitlements. Carers have a right to know what they are entitled to.
Carers Allowance is the lowest benefit of its kind in the UK, other than in Scotland. We support the call for Carers Allowance to be levelled up to comparable benefits.
Some of the working carers who come to our courses are given time off by their employers, whilst others have to take annual leave. In the 2019 Queen’s Speech the Government announced that it would bring forward legislation to introduce statutory carers leave. The carer community is campaigning for carers entitlement to paid leave of between five and ten days a year. At Dementia Carers Count, we campaign to ensure that the entitlement to paid carers leave isn’t just for crisis care but should include time to learn about the caring role and plan their own future.
Combining unpaid care with paid work can be a lifeline for carers as it provides income, social contact and different intellectual stimulation to the caring role. That’s why we support inclusion in the Employment Bill 2020 of flexible working as a mandatory to all employment contracts.
Dementia Carers Count calls to action
On International Women’s Day 2020 we call for
- The Social Care Green Paper to fully meet the specific needs of women who are carers of people with dementia
- Carers Allowance to be levelled up to comparable benefits
- Paid carers leave of up to ten days a year to enable dementia carers to access education and training on their caring role from organisations such as Dementia Carers Count
- Families, communities, wider society and policy makers to recognise that caring for a family member is a skilled activity that should be celebrated as a massive contribution to our society and should be rewarded accordingly
We support family, friends and partners looking after someone with dementia: by providing free one and three-day courses, led by healthcare professionals. For more information about our work, free courses, or our future Dementia Carers Centre please visit our website, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us on 020 3096 7894.