More than 2 million people give up work to care for relatives

More than 2 million people in the UK have given up work to care for disabled, sick or elderly relatives and loved ones, according to a survey.

More than one in five of the adult population, or 22%, have seen their work affected by caring responsibilities, with an estimated 2.3 million leaving jobs to care for a loved one, an online poll for the charity Carers UK has revealed.

Almost 3 million people have reduced their working hours to cope with caring responsibilities, the survey of 2,073 adults, conducted last month, showed.

The hardest hit were 45- to 54-year-olds, where more than one in four, or 27%, reported that caring had taken a toll on their work.

The findings have prompted Carers UK and the group Employers for Carers to call for more support for people attempting to juggle work and caring roles.

Helena Herklots, the Carers UK chief executive, said: “As with childcare a generation ago, employers can play a critical role in shifting how we as a society support people with family responsibilities.

“But support from employers can only go so far, and families need to be able to access reliable, good quality and affordable care and support services to enable them to juggle work and care.

“Without urgent action from government to ensure families can access this support, millions more will see their careers and earnings suffer – with long-term personal costs to families and significant costs to business and the UK economy.”

The figures have been published after the 2011 census in England and Wales showed one in 10 residents, a total of 5.8 million people, devotes at least part of their week to caring for disabled, sick or elderly relatives and loved ones without any expectation of payment.

This is an 11% rise on the 5.2 million unpaid carers recorded in the 2001 census.

The greatest increase was among those providing more than 20 hours a week of care, with the number rising from 1.66 million a decade ago to 2.1 million in 2011.

Nearly 300,000 extra people are dedicating 50 or more hours a week to looking after family and friends, with the figure now standing at 1.36 million.