Two people walking on a street Two people walking on a street

5. Personal autonomy and civic power

Personal autonomy and civic power

Fifth, society should aim to give more people greater personal autonomy and civic power.

It is a significant challenge to:

  • Reduce the rise of the need for and cost of informal care, and to increase autonomy, choice and control for both carers and those who receive care.

This is an emergent challenge, in as much as the demands for informal care are likely to increase significantly in the medium term as society ages and policy debate will need to take account of carers of different genders, ages and backgrounds, and who themselves have diverse needs and expectations. Today, 25% of women in their 50s and 18% of men in their 50s are carers. In some cases these are people who have spent their 20s, 30s or 40s caring for children and now find themselves responsible for looking after a partner, parent, or other relative. The contribution of unpaid carers to the economy has been estimated at £87bn each year.1

It is in society’s interest to reform our approach to care and support in order to achieve a sustainable balance between the capacity of the economy to fund care, and its ability to cope with increasing levels of economic inactivity among those leaving the workforce to provide unpaid care and support, and the reasonable limits of individual and family contributions.

  • Close the ‘power gap’ in public bodies on all protected grounds.

The evidence shows that many public representative bodies are not, in fact, very representative of the people they serve. Women represent less than a quarter of Westminster MPs, and barely 3 in 10 councillors in England. 4% of Westminster MPs are from an ethnic minority background, much less than the proportion of the adult population that is from an ethnic minority background. In some places and in some ways, public bodies are growing more representative: women make up nearly half of the Welsh Assembly, for example, and the number of Muslim MPs doubled at the 2010 election. However, progress is uneven and slow. Reports suggest that improving representativeness could increase public bodies’ effectiveness and legitimacy.2

This challenge is illustrated by the following case studies:

1. Buckner, L. and Yeandle, S. 2007. "Valuing Carers: Calculating the Value of Unpaid Care", Carers UK and the University of Leeds.

2. Including -  House of Commons 2010: "Speaker’s Conference on Parliamentary Representation – Final Report",  London: The Stationery Office;  Turley, A. 2009: "First Among Equals: Diversity in Local Government.", London: New Local Government Network;  Government Equalities Office 2009: "Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Women Councillors’ Taskforce Report", London: GEO.

Last updated: 07 Oct 2016