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UK Policy Briefing

Social care and gender: Briefing for a new government

This briefing covers the crisis in social care and the urgent reforms needed now.

Ignacia Pinto, Dr Zubaida Haque and Emerita Professor Hilary Land


The crisis in care is a longstanding one, predating both the pandemic and the financial crash, that now requires urgent reform.

Needs have increased in recent years, with the proportion of the working-age population reporting a disability rising from 16% in 2011/12 to 23% in 2021/22. The impacts are not equally distributed: in most deprived areas, people are expected to enjoy two decades less in good health than their counterparts in the least deprived areas.

The care workforce faces pressing challenges. Low and insecure pay and conditions; lack of appropriate career progression and adequate training to meet caring needs contribute to a high turnover and large number of vacancies in the sector.

There are around five million unpaid carers in England and Wales. The majority are women. Unpaid carers struggle managing paid work with unpaid, facing significant financial strain which is exacerbated by the cost of living crisis. Carers Allowance is only £81.90 per week, with a cliff-edge earnings limit.


WBG proposes a high-quality universal care service in which:

  • Care provided would be of high quality, built on establishing and maintaining consistent relationships, as well as enhancing capabilities. People’s needs, including complex needs, would be met in a way which supports wellbeing, prioritises dignity and ensures self-determination.
  • A comprehensive workforce strategy addresses major retention, turnover and lack of career and pay progression.
  • The choice to provide unpaid care by carers would be supported by benefits which are adequate, accessible and does not disproportionately penalise carers for undertaking some paid work to supplement their income.
  • Care workers would be appropriately trained to meet diverse and complex needs and paid accordingly.

Investment in social care, a wider definition of needs and improved quality would stimulate the economy, create jobs (including within the social care sector), lead to higher take-up of social care and reduce ill-health among paid and unpaid carers.