Care Vouchers Scheme

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Care vouchers recommendations are ‘unfinished business’ say employers.

Ahead of a parliamentary debate today (Thursday 26 Feb) on the government’s response to the Work & Pensions Select Committee’s report: ‘Valuing and Supporting Carers’, employers have come together to urge an immediate re-examination of the Committee’s proposals in support of Care Vouchers.

Care Vouchers are designed to help employees who care for someone who is ill, frail or has a disability.  Mirroring the popular and successful system of childcare vouchers, the scheme would offer tax and national insurance exemptions to employees who choose to use a proportion of their salary as vouchers which they could redeem for care services.  Research by the London School of Economics in 2007 estimated that £83m could be generated from a government investment of just £37m.  This would pay for an extra 6 million hours of home care for frail elderly or disabled people.

In August 2008, the Committee recommended that the government undertake a full cost benefit analysis of the Care Vouchers model, and that the Department for Work and Pensions pilot the scheme for its own employees. However, despite the Committee’s support the government’s response failed to implement the recommendations.

The business case for supporting carers in the workforce is undeniable. Currently 90% of working carers are aged over 30 – employees in their prime employment years. With caring peaking at 45-64, it also affects many employees who have gained valuable skills and experience.  In the current economic climate forward thinking employers recognise that they must focus on retaining their skilled workers rather than incurring the costs of recruiting and retraining new staff.

However, despite evidence proving that juggling paid work and caring can cause real health and employment problems, with 1 in 5 people giving up work to care, the government has refused to make the necessary tax and national insurance reforms.

With today’s debate bringing renewed attention to the topic, Caroline Waters - BT’s Director of People and Policy and Chair of Employers for Carers said: “1 in 7 people in the workplace is already a carer. At BT we recognise that society will see an increase in the need for care with as many as 3 out of every 5 people in the UK caring at some stage in their lives. We believe that employer-supported schemes such as Care Vouchers would provide the sort of practical help carers in the workplace need as well as improving the quality of life for those being cared for.  Without such support for carers, the workforce will be drained of crucial skills, just at the point when our ageing society needs more people to work until later in life...”

Andrew Clark, Head of Reward, John Lewis Partnership, a key supporter of the proposal, explained why Care Vouchers are needed:  “The John Lewis Partnership fully supports the care vouchers proposal.  We are convinced that this scheme would offer tangible assistance to carers and value to employers through the retention of a talented and diverse workforce.”

NOTES:

1. LSE report available at: http://www.carevoucherscampaign.co.uk/pdf/Carevouchersevaluation.pdf

2. 6m hours of home care calculated at a hourly rate of £13.00 (£83m / £13.00 = 6,384,615 hours)

3. Employers for Carers is a group of employers committed to working carers, chaired by BT and supported by the specialist knowledge of Carers UK. Their key purpose is to ensure that employers have the support to retain employees with caring responsibilities, with the backing of changes in national policy. They offer:

  • A developing evidence base on how caring responsibilities impact on employment
  • Expertise in working with government and employers on developing and implementing policy and good practice in the workplace.
  • Five years experience of working with employers such as BT, Centrica, the Metropolitan Police and the NHS, to support carers wishing to remain in or return to work

For more details about Employers for Carers, how to join and what services are available please visit www.employersforcarers.org, email employers@carersuk.org or telephone 020 7378 4956.

4. The Care Vouchers concept has the support of major employers including Lloyds TSB, HSBC, BT, the John Lewis Partnership, Nationwide Building Society, Ford UK, KPMG, Housing 21, Anchor Trust, IBM, Tunstall Group and Nestor Healthcare;); leading charities and campaigning organisations including Counsel and Care, Carers UK, Crossroads Association, Help the Aged, Working Families, the Princess Royal Trust for Carers and the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). It is sponsored by Busy Bees Ltd and Sodexho Pass.

5. Case studies, additional quotations, and interviews with spokespeople can be obtained by contacting Marc Woolfson, on 0207 227 1642 or via marc@westminsteradvisers.co.uk. Further details are available at www.carevoucherscampaign.co.uk