Supporting the UK’s unpaid carers
Caring can be complicated – and at times isolating. But with around 6,000 people becoming carers every single day even before the pandemic, they’re certainly not alone. The most recent Census in 2021 estimates that there are 5.7 million unpaid carers in the UK, while research by Carers UK suggests there could be as many as 10.6 million.
As a nation, we rely on our unpaid carers. They look after loved ones who need help because they are older, seriously ill or living with a disability, and it’s estimated that they save the state £132 billion a year. To put that in context, the entire NHS budget is £160 billion.
Before the pandemic, 600 carers a day gave up work to care and today one in seven juggles their caring responsibilities with a job. That’s why we think it’s vital to support carers all over the country, whether they’re our colleagues or customers or not, and have been working closely with Carers UK since 2004 to do just that.
What is Carers UK?
For more than 50 years, Carers UK has provided free support, advice and information to unpaid carers across the UK. As well as connecting people and combatting loneliness through its online forum, the charity also runs a vital helpline for carers and their families to get advice from the experts. As it approaches its 60th anniversary in 2025, Carers UK continues to raise awareness, work with local authorities and campaign for change so no one has to care alone.
Supporting Carers Week: 5th-11th June 2023
Carers Week is an annual campaign to raise awareness and highlight the challenges that unpaid carers face. Through events across the UK – from wellbeing sessions to virtual coffee mornings – it aims to bring carers together and give them access to vital support.
Our Carer’s Network has partnered with our Diverse-Ability, Neurodiversity and Working Parents Networks on special events to celebrate Carer’s Week. Author Ali Jeffries returns to host a webinar entitled Taking Care of Yourself and Others, while organisational coach Clive Leach will lead a Caring Wellbeing one.
How British Gas is supporting carers
Many people don’t consider themselves to be a carer. But even if you’re looking after an older, disabled or seriously ill loved one for just a few hours a week, you can still access dedicated help and advice to make things a little easier. That’s why we started our Share That You Care conversation to get people talking and help carers find the support they need.
Uncovering all our hidden carers is our number one priority. Lots of colleagues providing unpaid care at home to loved ones simply don’t realise they’re a carer, so we have been spending lots of time spreading the word and helping people to self-identify. This is vital as it ensures as many of our carers as possible are accessing the market-leading support Centrica can provide.
Funding extra support
Carers UK reported a huge 83% rise in calls and emails from carers needing extra support during the pandemic. So in March 2020, we donated £1 million to fund an extended hours service helpline, so they could be there for even more unpaid carers when they needed it most.
Supporting the Carer’s Leave Act
Put forward by Wendy Chamberlain MP, the Carer's Leave Act introduces, for the first time, a statutory entitlement to paid carer’s leave. It received Royal Assent on 24th May 2023 and will now pass into law. Prior to this, employers had no legal obligation to give their staff paid time off if they needed it for their caring responsibilities. We gave our full support to helping the Carer’s Leave Bill pass through parliament, and now our focus will shift to implementing it.
We want all carers to have the same fantastic support that Centrica provides, and the Carer’s Leave Act represents an important first step that plants a flag for carers rights. Our support for its passage through parliament includes speaking at the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Carers in July 2022, a parliamentary briefing for MPs and Ministers in January 2023 and presenting to a group of peers, led by Lord Fox, ahead of the Second Reading of the Bill in the House of Lords on 3rd March 2023.
Here for our caring customers…
We know many of our customers are carers. So our customer service teams are specially trained to understand their specific needs and how we can support them. And in 2020, we introduced a ‘Carers Flag’ on our database to make it easier for our advisers to offer extra support to those that might need it.
We also have over 3,000 carers on our Priority Service Register – but we know there are lots more out there. By providing things like advanced notice of planned power cuts and priority support in an emergency, we’re doing everything we can to make sure they’re able to care for their loved ones – no matter what.
…and for our colleagues
We have plenty of carers within our own team too, so we’ve created a leading carers policy that includes special leave to help with things like hospital appointments and a dedicated carers network to connect with other carers in the business.
Want to get involved?
If you look after a loved one, or you know someone who does, head to the Carers UK to find out about the types of support available. It also has lots of information about how you can help make life better for Britain’s carers – from fundraising and volunteering, to lending an ear to someone you know.