Helping carers to stay in, or return to, employment

31 January 2018

There’s encouragement today for the country’s carers who want to be part of the world of work. A government-funded and independently evaluated project, which ran from 2015-2017, looked at what works to support carers to remain or return to the workplace. Known as the Carers in Employment (CiE) project, it took place in nine local authorities, who were encouraged to develop local solutions to support carers to remain in or return to work; work involving employers was found to be a vital to the project’s success.

The evaluation reports that, out of the nearly three thousand carers who took part, CiE sites said that they had supported nearly 60% to stay in work. It’s hoped that the findings of the independent evaluation will make an important contribution to ensuring that carers’ needs are reflected in future employment-related carer policy and practice.

Challenges and opportunities

There are a complex set of challenges when supporting carers to remain in or return to the workforce, but the CiE project has also highlighted the importance of raising the profile of working carers as a group in the workplace. CiE helped both employers and employees to benefit from using existing opportunities, such as the right to request flexible working. The project has also shown that initiatives like this one can add value to the working practices of small and medium sized enterprises; this is because they are less likely than larger employers to have established HR policies and practices to support working carers.

Outcomes for carers

The evaluation found that those carers who received more comprehensive and intensive support were more likely to report benefits. Emotional and practical support led to increased morale and carers said they felt less isolated. Advocacy and support worker services provided by the project were reported to have helped working carers cope better at crucial ‘tipping points’ or domestic crises that otherwise were likely to have had a more detrimental effect on maintaining the balance of care and work. The project also helped carers and employers to improve their awareness of the existing local available help, including local voluntary provision and welfare benefits.

Caroline Dinenage, Minister of State for Care, says:

Carers tirelessly provide support for their family and friends but we know that balancing caring responsibilities with employment can be a real challenge. That’s why we fund work like the Carers in Employment project so that local solutions can be tested and learning shared – so the wishes of carers are prioritised when their support needs are considered.

Outcomes for employers

The project raised employer awareness of the realities facing working carers, encouraged more supportive workplace cultures and reduced conflict between staff over work adjustments for carers were reported. Some employers said that the project had resulted in the introduction of carer-friendly HR policies and practices; typically the encouragement of flexible working arrangements and the introduction of new guidance on working and caring for line managers. Employers reported the benefits of increased awareness of working-carer issues, knowing where support was available and pointing them in the direction of staff to who can help.

Tony Hunter, chief executive at the Social Care Institute for Excellence, says:

Supporting carers to stay in or return to work is so important. It’s good for the carers themselves; they can fulfil their need to work, they can experience improved morale and they have an income. But it’s also good for employers and the wider community as carers are enabled to use their broader skills and experiences for everyone’s benefit. This report and the current DWP select committee enquiry, which mentions this work, are both encouraging signs that supporting carers in employment is being recognised as increasingly important

The nine Carers in Employment locations were:

  • Bury
  • Cheshire West and Chester
  • Gateshead
  • Northamptonshire
  • North Somerset
  • North Tyneside
  • Sefton
  • South Gloucestershire
  • Staffordshire and Stoke.

Denise’s story

Denise cares for her husband; he has had multiple mobility and health conditions for several years. She was feeling overwhelmed with the level of care required and frustrated that her career progression had stalled since she became a carer. Denise contacted the CiE team and received funding for a weekend of respite care, which delighted her.

Local staff held several meetings with her and encouraged her to approach her employer’s HR department about her caring responsibilities, which she had not considered before. Her company had always been very supportive and flexible, but she did not know of their schemes to support carers. In addition to flexible working, her employer teamed up with a third-party specialist care agency to provide emergency support. When she travels for work and returns home late, Denise is now entitled to five hours of paid care from an outside agency, funded by her employer.

Notes to editors

The work was commissioned by the Department of Health (now the Department of Health and Social Care), the Department for Work and Pensions and the Government Equalities Office. The Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) co-ordinated and supported the delivery of the project. The Institute for Employment Studies (IES) was commissioned to undertake an independent evaluation.

The government-funded Carers in Employment (CiE) project operated from 2015 to 2017. Its aim was to examine ‘what works’ in supporting carers to remain in or return to employment by testing a range of support interventions. Nine local authorities in England were selected to take part in the project through competitive tender.

Projects were encouraged to develop bespoke workable solutions to meet local need. A varied ‘person-centred’ approach was encouraged providing the opportunity for projects to learn from different approaches and develop and change plans by adjusting the range of provision offered over the time-frame. The Social Care Institute for Excellence (SCIE) co-ordinated and supported the delivery of the project. The Institute for Employment Studies (IES) was commissioned to undertake an independent evaluation. The findings reported here are based on the analysis of interviews with 70 carers and 20 employers, as well as attendance at regular project network learning events and the analysis of available project management information.

Aim of project. The government-funded Carers in Employment (CiE) project operated from 2015 to 2017. Its aim was to examine ‘what works’ in supporting carers to remain in or return to employment by testing a range of support interventions

Activity. CiE sites supported 2,794 carers with at least one type of intervention and had contact with 384 employers

Overview of outcomes. CiE sites reported that they had supported 1,598 carers to remain in work out of 2,794 carers engaged, representing 57% of the total. Three carers were supported to enter self-employment.

Media Contact

Steve Palmer, Press and Public Affairs Manager
Tel: 020 7766 7419 | Mob: 07739 458 192 | Email: steve.palmer@scie.org.uk