The crisis of care in Britain is intensifying. However, it is largely discussed in terms of rising costs of care to the state, but rarely in terms of the costs to those engaged in doing this work.  Low pay and poor conditions of work for those engaged in care work is a major concern, as is the wellbeing of those in their care. Since a major share of care is performed by family members, including grandparents, attention must be given to unpaid as well as paid care work. Unpaid care work is increasingly seen as a  human rights issue and its recognition an essential step towards achieving gender equality.

The British welfare state has been important in organising, resourcing and delivering care work in the country, and its contraction is having significant impact of people’s lives. According to a House of Commons Library report women have been disproportionately impacted by tax and benefit changes[1]. Women have also borne the brunt of welfare restructuring not just in terms of job losses but also because they have had to fill the gaps in social support, which have been decimated as a result of cuts in state funded services.

Most policy attention in recent years has been given to child care - with the notable exception of the still unactioned Dilnot report[2]. The shifting demographic of the country needs a closer look at how the crisis of care is affecting older people with support needs as well as disabled adults. It is also necessary to pay closer attention to the needs of those who perform care work– both paid and unpaid; without focused support they risk depleting their own lives and capacities.

When addressed, this crisis of care is often treated as an issue of social policy and fiscal adjustment overlooking the importance of the study of governance and regulation.

A new Research Commission on 'The Crisis of Care in Austerity Britain' will address these gaps. As austerity bites in Britain, we ask:

  • What will be the impact of a state, which is contracting and an aging population with support needs and disabilities that is expanding, on the care regime in Britain? And what impact will it have on the everyday lives of citizens – those who care and those cared for?
  • How might the devolution of powers and responsibility between and within Britain’s nations affect issues of care? What would need to change in the relations between local and national level state bodies to address the crisis of care work?
  • How can examples from other countries – strong welfare states in some countries and (in contrast) states with minimal social support – allow us to imagine progressive reforms to Britain’s policy framework on care?
  • What role do discourses of welfare and care in the media and elsewhere play in shaping policy?


The Commission will undertake a careful examination of governance and regulation of policies on care and their impact on people’s everyday life, which will form the basis of formulating new approaches to address the crisis of care for older people in Britain.

Launching this initiative, Professor Will Jennings of the Political Studies Association said:

“Each Commission is addressing an issue of strategic importance and each will reflect on how the study of politics might respond to challenges and opportunities raised by the changing scope and form of politics in the 21st Century.

“Our ambition is for the profession, in collaboration with other disciplines and practitioners, to contribute to, and lead, current debates in public life and society more broadly.  The crisis of care in Britain is intensifying and we look forward to publishing the Commission’s report in September 2016.”

The Commission, alongside Belinda Phipps, will involve the following Commissioners: Prof. Ruth Pearson (University of Leeds and Women’s Budget Group), Prof. Shirin Rai (University of Warwick), Dr Juanita Elias (University of Warwick) and Dr Daniela Tepe-Belfrage (University of Sheffield).  The Commission is expected to report in September 2016.


[1] Richard Cracknell, 2013, Estimating the costs of tax and benefit changes by gender, HoC Standard Note:

SN06758, 19 November

[2] One exception has been the Dilnot Report on adult social care, 2010