Informal care(e)r development: a place for skills developed through informal caring in UK workplaces

It is estimated that one in seven workers provide unpaid adult care in the UK.  This is due to factors such as an ageing population, rise in state pension age and the UK’s ongoing ‘social care crisis’.  As Carers UK recently stressed in their report, Juggling work and unpaid care, and as I have highlighted in Hidden Care(e)rs: Supporting informal carers in the workplace, there is a moral and business case in helping carers maintain, or make a return to, employment.  Indeed, employers are encouraged to support working carers, and research by Employers for Carers found that the benefits of doing so led to increased staff morale, loyalty, retention rates, productivity and reduced leave and sickness absence.  Professor David Grayson noted that it is in the interest of employers to support working carers to address skills gaps and respond to concerns of an ageing workforce.

Data shows that the highest provision of informal/unpaid care is provided by women between the ages of 50 – 64.  Women of this age bracket are also seen in careers literature as being at their professional peak.  It was for these reasons that in 2016 I interviewed 30 women aged 45 – 65 in Leicestershire in the UK about their experiences of juggling work and care.

Unsurprisingly, participants reported that caring impacted their employment and the progression of their careers with reports of little or no career development, reductions in working hours and responsibilities, career breaks and leaving employment.  Interestingly, half of participants considered their caring as a type of work, taking the form of both physical and emotional labour.  This is in line with Rebecca Taylor’s extension of the conceptual boundaries of work, beyond paid or unpaid, to the consideration of providing a service, meaning such work could be considered to inform individual careers.

Participants often spoke about the skills they used from their employment history in caring, such as project management.  Yet, with a dearth in training for informal carers, they also reported developing skills informally ‘on the job’ while caring, which were of use in their paid employment.  Whilst some directly related to nursing and care work, often participants reported a growth in ‘soft skills’ such as communication, negotiation, empathy, patience and resilience.  This is important as the author of the Taylor review of modern working practices, Matthew Taylor, noted recently (at the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development’s Festival of Work) that the skills of the future are empathy, teamwork and resilience.  Indeed, he called for an employability framework that would hold a record of an individual’s formal and informal training and their skill set, including communication and empathy.

We know employers face increasing economic and productivity pressures.  How can we ensure that an individual’s whole career development is discussed – including their care work – in order to help address the UK’s skills shortage?


For further information, please contact:

Louise Oldridge –

A qualitative investigation of the unmet needs of carers of stroke survivors and their preferences for services

Ongoing unmet needs often result in adverse health outcomes for carers of stroke survivors. In this study we interviewed twenty-four carers of stroke survivors from the Hunter region in Australia to discuss their unmet needs and their preferences for the support to meet their needs. Unmet needs identified by these carers were: social relationships and support; adequacy of information; taking care of oneself; and accessing appropriate services. Carers of stroke survivors desired the development of services which provide connectivity to information, training, education and community support; and inclusion in a community with social relationships and other carers of stroke survivors.

Engaging with carers of stroke survivors in this way to directly identify their unmet needs, and in turn explore their preferences for resources to meet these needs provides ideas for the development of acceptable programs. Involving consumers/carers as active partners in the development of content for resources, services and support can ensure that the voices, perspectives and needs of carers are heard.

I ask the CAREN community for your thoughts on how to best involve carers in research, and the also any thoughts on the value of co-design with consumers?


Please view the above research here:

Denham AMJ, Wynne O, Baker AL, Spratt NJ, Turner A, Magin P, et al. (2019) “This is our life now. Our new normal”: A qualitative study of the unmet needs of carers of stroke survivors. PLoS ONE 14(5): e0216682.

Welcome to the CAREN blog

Communication between those who use CAREN is key to its success as a knowledge exchange resource for all those across the globe who require any form of carer-related knowledge. This blog enables discussions between all CAREN’s stakeholders (namely governments, carers, employers, policy makers, practitioners, researchers, third sector organisations and research funders around the world) with the goal of identifying priority areas of interventions, support and assistance for carers worldwide. Any contributions which help to develop CAREN’s rich evidence-base are also most welcome.

We look forward to hearing from you and engaging with you through this blog. Please use it to share your thoughts and ideas! You are very welcome to comment on posts and past blogs yourself. If you would like to post a blog please email Alex Denham ( with your post. We suggest that each post is a maximum of 500 words and ends with a thought-provoking question to encourage a discussion. Please provide links or references for any relevant reports or papers that you discuss and put your name at the end of your blog.

We’d like to kickstart a discussion about ways of continuing to raise the profile of carers and carers rights. In the UK, 30th November was Carer’s Rights Day. This aims to bring organisations across the UK together to help carers in their local community know their rights and find out how to get the help and support they are entitled to. Some counties also have a Carers Week – Australia had theirs in October. There is an International Women’s Day. What about having an International Carers Day? All thoughts welcome!!!


Alex Denham and Mary Larkin (Blog administrators)