On Friday 30th June, it's Employability Day 2023, a campaign led by Employment Related Services Association (ERSA). Carers Trust has been and continues to be a key supporter of unpaid carers' employment and getting carers into employment through the Working For Carers programme.
An innovative Carers Trust-run scheme which helped 1,266 unpaid carers from across London move closer to the jobs market has led to nearly three-quarters of participants who took part in the evaluation saying they had found sustained employment after leaving the project.
The Working for Carers programme began in January 2017 and has just ended, helping unpaid carers from all 33 of London’s boroughs to move into, or closer to, employment. The project focused on building confidence and skills alongside addressing barriers to employment for unpaid carers - people who care for a friend or family member with an illness, disability, mental health problem or addiction.
Working for Carers was delivered by the national charity Carers Trust in partnership with local carer organisations Camden Carers Service, Carers Lewisham, Harrow Carers and Redbridge Carers Support Service. Funding came from the European Social Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund.
It provided free, tailored support including help with job-searching, applications, CVs, interview techniques, wellbeing and IT skills, alongside access to training and volunteering opportunities.
Of the 1,266 people who took part, 82% were economically inactive (not in employment or actively job-searching) when they registered and most had been out of work for many years.
However, the change in their prospects after taking part in Working for Carers was marked, with 72% saying they had achieved sustained employment after exiting the project. Of those who took part, 59% undertook training whilst supported by the project and 14% accessed volunteering opportunities, while 13% exited the project into training or education.
In a survey of participants who moved into employment, job-searching or training, 86% said their confidence had improved and 82% reported their skills had improved.
Kirsty McHugh highlights the challenges unpaid carers currently face in employment such as balancing work and caring, support through carers centre organisations, carers allowance and what employers can do. She said, "unpaid family carers can make great, great employees so lets all work together to see if we can get more into paid employment".
Watch the videos below to see more or find the full CEO blog here.
One carer, Jaycee, was supported to set up her own business running laughter and relaxation therapy sessions. She was referred by Wandsworth Carers Centre to Working for Carers, which helped her pick the business name, Zen Laughter, put together a business model, provided financial support for her website and organised workshops and a business consultant.
She said: “The most important thing I’ve learned from Working for Carers is you don’t have to be alone. So much of life as a carer is about being feeling alone with your caring responsibilities. That’s when problems build. I’ve now learned the importance of sharing how I feel and reaching out for support. I now know there is no shame to admit I am struggling. And even though I couldn’t actually say what support I needed, Ama at Working for Carers was able to signpost me to the right support. And that’s when doors started to open for me.”
Antoinette, who had cared for her mother in the last years of her life, became a published children’s author after being referred to the programme by Camden Carers. She has now written three books and been shortlisted for the prestigious Jericho Prize.
She said: “I was so low after mum passed away. But now I feel I have a purpose. I could never have done it without Fenia and Working for Carers. At the hardest time in my life, they gave me this network of support with other carers. Just being able to talk to them at our regular meetings was so uplifting.
“Most important of all, they believed in me when I’d stopped believing in myself.”
Being an unpaid carer can place enormous barriers in the way of finding employment. Finding jobs that offer flexible working to fit around a caring role is one of the biggest challenges, with other problems including lack of access to alternative care and financial concerns such as the loss of Carer’s Allowance or other benefits. A recent survey by Carers Trust found nearly two-thirds of unpaid carers have either given up employment or cut back on their working hours.
Findings from Working for Carers suggest there is high demand for specific support for unpaid carers, including advice on balancing work with caring and finding employers with carer-friendly policies. Participants also reported needing help with building confidence after being out of work for long periods, mental health support, improvement to their IT skills and access to support networks.
Tanya Sealey, Working for Carers Programme Lead at Carers Trust, said:
“Working for Carers demonstrates that carers are most likely to benefit from employability support that understands the specific challenges they may face when looking to move into employment. The project provided an important space where carers could consider their needs, ambitions and barriers to work, and plan their next steps. With a workforce shortage nationally, this project shows how a large number of people can be helped back into paid employment rather than being locked out of the job market because of their caring role.
“It has been so rewarding hearing the amazing success stories from carers supported by the project. And we also worked closely with evaluation partners, Wavehill and Ecorys, to capture learning from the project, which will inform future employability support for carers.”
“Unpaid carers like me prop up a failing system". Carers Trust has worked with Denise Wilkins, an unpaid carer from Greenwich Carers, to publish this article in the Guardian on the very real employment challenges facing unpaid carers.
The article specifically addresses the issues around the Government calling people to return to work while not addressing social care. Many unpaid carers want to return to work but can't in the current broken system.