A new study by national disabled people’s charity Revitalise has highlighted the pressure felt by women to assume caring roles ahead of men.
While acknowledging that 42% of the UK’s 6.5 million unpaid carers are men, the charity’s study has revealed a perception among female carers that they are victims of a gender bias which may be unfairly forcing them into caring roles.
The survey found that twice as many women as men thought the gender of a person was a factor in their becoming a carer (34% vs 17%).
When quizzed further, 8 out of 10 (78%) of the female respondents agreed that women feel more pressured into the role of carer on account of their gender. However, this contention was shared by only half of the men (53%).
9 out of 10 (89%) female carers felt there was an expectation in families and society that women take on the role of carer, to which over 8 out of 10 (84%) non-carers also agreed.
Significantly, 4 out of 10 (37%) non-carers thought men tried to evade the responsibility of providing care.
But when it came to the question of men’s caring capabilities, 8 out of 10 women (78%) and 9 out of 10 men (91%) were in unanimous agreement that men were just as good at caring as women – an opinion also shared by 8 out of 10 (83%) non-carers.
Women’s feelings of injustice extended to the workplace too; 84% of female carers felt there was a greater expectation that women should abandon their careers to become carers.
The Revitalise survey also painted a stark picture of the plight of the UK’s unpaid carers, both male and female. Half (48%) of the carers who responded to the survey – 83% of whom were 50 or over – said they provided 24/7 care for a loved one, yet over a third (34%) said they had never had any significant time away since they started caring.
The impact on the emotional and physical wellbeing of carers was also clearly highlighted: 6 out of 10 (60%) said they put the health of their loved one ahead of their own. A third (32%) admitted that they sometimes felt depressed and/or resentful at being a carer and that sometimes they lost patience or got angry at the person they cared for (34%).
Revitalise is holding up its study as evidence that much more needs to be done to support unpaid family carers – especially in terms of regular respite from caring – and also that the perceived issue of gender bias within caring needs to be addressed.
Revitalise Chief Executive Chris Simmonds commented:
“On the surface this might make quite depressing reading, but it’s important to acknowledge that many people don’t regard caring for loved one as a burden or a chore. In our survey, 6 out of 10 carers said they were happy to be carers because they felt it was their duty.
“But the fact remains that most carers are under incredible pressure and get very little support. Revitalise has been providing respite support for disabled people and carers for over 50 years, so we know a thing or two about the importance of regular time off from caring, as well as the devastating impact that a lack of regular respite can have.
“We think our research has opened the door on an issue that deserves urgent attention. If women are bearing the brunt of the duty of care, if they feel unfairly pressured into giving up their careers, hopes and plans solely because of their gender, then we think that is quite wrong.
“We’ve always believed that disabled people should have the same rights and freedoms as non-disabled people – and exactly the same principle should apply to all carers too.”
Revitalise is a national charity providing respite holidays for disabled people and carers at three accessible centres in Chigwell in Essex, Southampton and Southport, with 24-hour nursing care on-call, personal support and a range of accessible excursions, activities and entertainment.
People wanting more information about Revitalise respite holidays are requested to call 0303 303 0145 or visit www.revitalise.org.uk.