Part one: A time bomb for the future
In the not too distant future, 2030+, some 160,000 elderly people in the UK could be left without the caring support they need.
According to the London School of Economics (LSE), it is estimated 675,000 older people currently rely on unpaid carers – mainly their children – as they fall outside the state support system, which is available only to the poorest.
They are not poor enough to qualify for state funded care, and so their children have to pick up the baton, as unpaid carers.
A very high percentage of those who have to give up their jobs will be women, with men traditionally seen as the main bread winner, although of course this is not the case in every household.
As Carers UK chief executive Helena Herklots has recently pointed out, this problem could have a profound impact on society.
She says that in addition to the personal costs to families, the costs will be felt across society and public services – with increasing numbers of older people admitted to hospitals needing avoidable emergency care.
And the problem will, she claims, have a knock-on effect on the whole economy as businesses will have to handle the problems of staff trying coping with caring as well as work.
Many of these will be women, and many will be forced to quit work to care.
In the last half century, many barriers have been broken by women: the boardroom, finance, politics, to name but a few, but there are still two barriers that block many women from achieving their full potential.
Firstly, and traditionally, is the baby barrier, for it is an undeniable fact that in most households, women still hold the primary responsibility for bringing up the children and for the day to day routine of domestic duties. Many women have found answers to this problem, ranging from child-minders to nannies.
However, as the UK population ages, another barrier has sprung up to clutch at the ankles of today’s professional women – the aged parent barrier.
Just as their career is really taking off – their aged parent or parents fall into ill health, or simply become unable to care for themselves. It’s a real moral dilemma – and which for many women can only be resolved by giving up their hard fought-for career and becoming their parents’ carer.