Understanding the lives of those who care

The research explores Carer’s Allowance recipients’ caring responsibilities, their experiences of combining care with paid employment and support mechanisms used to manage their caring roles.

The main findings are:

  • Carer’s Allowance (CA) recipients value having a benefit that acknowledges their role. It provides an important source of income and forms part of a wider range of financial support generally used to manage household budgeting.
  • Recipients find the eligibility criteria and Carer’s Allowances’ interaction with other benefits difficult to understand and overly restrictive. They felt that it discouraged them from accessing employment and education opportunities.
  • Formal and informal support were utilised by many CA recipients to help them manage their caring roles. This included formal care services providing personal care to the cared for person. CA recipients reported that they often became aware of the availability of formal support services through other professionals such as doctors or hospital staff.
  • Generally, respondents would prefer to be in paid employment, although they considered their caring responsibilities prevented this from happening. Respondents widely discussed giving up paid employment when their caring responsibilities became particularly demanding. It was also at this point that they started to claim CA. Some respondents did not want to access paid employment, viewing their caring responsibilities as a ‘full-time’ job.
  • Leaving paid employment at the onset of their caring responsibilities was discussed by some, with those caring long-term forsaking their own career plans. Carers of children were the most likely to be in paid employment, working part-time, possibly because children were in school during the day. Sourcing employment with sufficient flexibility to accommodate caring responsibilities was considered difficult, although not impossible. Some CA recipients had been able to alter their working hours and patterns to accommodate their caring responsibilities.
  • Part-time work was selected by some CA recipients as a way of managing their caring responsibilities and remaining in paid employment. This was highly valued by some carers as it enabled them to remain in contact with the labour market and continue to develop their skills. Respondents also cited benefits to their own well-being, including increased self-esteem and confidence.  

The report, titled Developing a clearer understanding of the Carer’s Allowance customer group’, was led by Dr Gary Fry and Professor Sue Yeandle from the University of Leeds’ Centre for International Research on Care, Labour and Equalities (CIRCLE).

Professor Yeandle, Professor of Sociology at the University of Leeds and Director of CIRCLE said: “This study is an important contribution to our understanding of this group of carers. It is the largest ever conducted with carers in receipt of Carer’s Allowance.

The report offers insights into these carers’ lives, the difficulties they experience, the formal services and informal support networks to which they have access, and their aspirations around paid employment and having a life of their own. It includes a number of policy recommendations intended to enhance the lives of carers in receipt of this welfare benefit.”

For more information

This research report is published on 26th as part of the DWP Research Report Series, Report 739 Developing a clearer understanding of the Carer’s Allowance customer group’. The reports can be found at http://www.dwp.gov.uk/asd/asd5/rrs-index.asp.


Steve Akehurst in the University of Leeds press office on 0113 343 4196.