In 1954 Rev Mary Webster gave up work to care for her elderly parents. In the years that followed she had a growing realisation that her problems of providing care, unpaid of course, to her parents while dealing with her own loss of income and freedom would be shared by many other women. In 1963 after her parents died, Mary Webster began a campaign to highlight the issues faced by particularly unmarried daughters who gave up work to care for their parents
In 1965 Mary formed the National Council for the Single Woman and Her Dependents (NCSWD), we now know it as Carers UK
At the time Mary began campaigning, the idea that daughters should in any way be recognised for providing care to their parents was simply unheard of. It was just what happened.
Today, although there is still a long way to go in terms of proper resourcing, the existence of carers, the huge amount of care they provide and money they save the state is widely recognised. There is a national strategy for carers currently being revised, local strategies and carers organisations up and down the country.
Whenever I remind myself of Mary’s story as I do frequently, I see parallels with what AWOC is trying to achieve.
Like Carers back then, one of the biggest challenges facing people ageing without children is their invisibility. 1 in 5 people over 50 will not have been parents while others will have had children who died or from whom they are estranged. Next year in 2017, for the first time, the number of older people in need of care is expected to outstrip the number of family members able to provide informal care. By 2030, 2 million people over 65 will not have children to help with informal care. It’s not a small number of people but they go unrecognised and unmentioned in policy and planning on ageing. The reasons for this invisibility will be explored more in our forthcoming report “our voices” but it is down to a number of factors including
• Political narratives focused on hard-working families
• Assumptions that all older people have children and grandchildren
• The large percentage of people ageing without children who are from groups experiencing other forms of discrimination
• The use of language that reinforce the above
AWOC wants this to change. It’s no longer acceptable or even sensible to ignore that many people and to have policies and practice on ageing that assume there is family (by which is usually meant spouse/partner and children) to step in. If more is not done to consider how services and society will manage the large numbers of people ageing without children, individuals who are ageing without children face the prospect of old age as second class citizens with no one to advocate for them and services that cannot accommodate their needs.
AWOC believes that to change this, the following needs to happen
• Central Government planning on ageing takes into account that increasing numbers of people will get old without family support and there should be a national strategy for people ageing without children that brings together individual people Ageing without Children along with national and local Government, the NHS, housing providers and key bodies from civil society;
• Local authorities should identify how many people in their area are likely to age without children and incorporate this into their strategies on ageing;
• There should be a national network of advocates for those ageing without children.
• GPs, hospitals and social care services are able to identify people without family, provide support or care at an early stage and guarantee involvement of other services to ensure they are not left without support;
• Advice and assistance offered to everyone for making plans for their later life that take into account what will happen if they do need care or lose capacity to make their own decisions;
• Education/training for service providers who will be working directly with older people without children. It is vitally important that those who write policy, plan services and work directly with older people understand all of the issues associated with ageing without children.
We cannot wait, we must take action now to plan for the future of people ageing without children.
How you can help AWOC
• Write to your local MP asking them to raise the issue – contact us for a template letter
• Contact your local cabinet member for health and social care or lead for older people and ask what they are doing to ensure the needs of people ageing without children are included in local policy/planning on ageing
• Make a donation to AWOC –
• Set up a local AWOC group – contact us for information