The role that entrepreneurs and technology can play in improving informal care in the UK
Munna is an outgoing lady in her eighties but although she lives in sheltered accommodation she was feeling increasingly isolated. Signing up online to Casserole Club, she says, has “changed her life”. Casserole Club links up cooks in a local community with older people like Munna. That cook makes an extra meal and shares it with the older person, providing company and friendship as well as a hot meal.
Munna’s situation is far from unique. There are now more pensioners in the UK than there are young people and many of them suffer from isolation, seeing friends or family rarely. And, it’s a growing problem; the older population is set to double over the next 25 years, by 2025 half of us will be over 50. An IPPR report published last week outlined the pressure this is putting on the supply of informal care; there are simply less people available to care. The report predicts that by 2017 the number of older people in need of care will outstrip the number of family members able to help.
So, who cares?
One of the biggest challenges for us as a society is how we provide care for this older population and support them to live a high quality of life. Due to steep budget cuts access to state funded care is restricted to only those with substantial or critical needs, and this trend is set to continue. Increasingly care will need to be met by ‘informal care’: the unpaid help and support from family, friends and the wider community.
Today we are publishing our new report, Who Cares?, which predicts that in ten years’ time nine million people will need some form of informal care. It’s an issue that affects everyone at some point in their life, either through caring for a family member, loved one, or needing care themselves. Our report examines the role that entrepreneurs and technology can play in improving informal care for older people and highlights the need for more investment.
It is important to note that informal care is already happening. According to Carers UK there are currently 6.4 million informal carers (an estimated 70 per cent of this is for older people). However, frequently care falls to just one person and can be incredibly stressful; many carers report a decline in their own well-being and can suffer financial hardship and isolation as a result.
There is a need for more connected care; building networks of family, community and, when required, professional care. These informal care networks can help us, as we age, remain socially connected and supported to live independently and have a good quality of life.
The role of entrepreneurs and technology
Entrepreneurs are at the forefront of developing new technologies that can both increase the supply and improve the efficiency of informal care. We are seeing exciting innovations that have the potential to, over time, deliver real and lasting impact as well as being successful and sustainable businesses:
Although there are a number of exciting innovations emerging, none have yet reached significant scale, and the market is complex and underdeveloped. In our new report we examine some of the common barriers to achieving scale and delivering impact while generating sustainable revenue streams.
Digital technology is a powerful tool that can help to build care networks and engage potential carers from the community. But we need to remember, it is only a tool. Care will always need to be delivered by people.
Individuals, carers, communities, commissioners, entrepreneurs and investors need to work together to support impactful solutions that respond to this looming ‘care crisis’.
There is clearly a range of people and organisations working to meet the growing demand for care. The urgent issue is how to support the most effective solutions – through investment and building robust evidence – and make giving and receiving care part of everyday life. The goal is to change the landscape so that in ten years’ time Munna’s experience is commonplace.