The government is set to launch a major campaign to boost awareness among carers of the right to request flexible working.
The new move is part of a 10-year programme to give carers more help with employment, more frequent short breaks, and support for them to stay healthy.
The Carers Strategy is supported by £255m of new investment to implement some immediate steps. This includes £38m towards supporting carers to enter or re-enter the job market with more guidance for employers, and more accessible skills training for carers.
There are currently about 5.2 million carers in England and Wales, and nearly half of them provide more than 20 hours of care a week. Carers have had the right to request flexible working since April 2007.
The demand for care is expected to rise in the future, with the number of people aged over 85 – those most in need of care – rising by more than 50% in the next 10 years.
Health minister Ivan Lewis said: “In the next decade, eldercare will be the new childcare, and it is essential our policies properly meet the scale of the challenge.”
Equalities minister Harriet Harman added: “It’s important that people caring for older or disabled family members don’t have to give up their job. Only 7% of people know that carers have the right to request flexible working. That’s why [the government] will launch a major awareness raising campaign later this year.”
Imelda Redmond, chief executive of charity Carers UK, said: “This is an important step forward for carers, backed up with more than £255m of new investment and ground-breaking new initiatives. However, we are disappointed there is no immediate financial help for the hundreds of thousands of carers who rely on benefits.”