Co-producing futures with Carers as the ‘Third Workforce’ by Dee Gray

Co-production, a frequently used word, which denotes parity of value in service design and delivery is perhaps the essence of social action. In terms of upaid informal care work, carers, or the ‘third workforce’ are familiar with working with and alongside public sector colleagues, and are known to contribute to the sustainability of public services and to their local economies.

The third workforce, has a global presence, and in the context of global population ageing, the reconciliation of how we support and sustain this workforce is becoming an important social issue.

We can highlight some of those issues here if we consider how we support carers who are also in paid employment, and young carers in education.

Adult Carers in Employment (ACE) are double contributors to society, not only are they providing an invaluable service that bridges health and social care, but they are also contributing to the overall economy. It is estimated that if we were to lose ACE from their employed paid roles it would cost the UK billions in lost revenues and increase in reliance on carers allowances.

Young Carers in Education (YCE), are also providing a service that ensures those they care for remain in their home environments, and they are doing this whilst trying to study for their own futures. Failure to support them during this crucial time, could mean that by not achieving their full potential in school, college or university, then neither does society as a whole.

The workload, and the nature of care work, often results in both ACE and YCE becoming overwhelmed and stressed by the demands put upon them. There are already initiatives and efforts undertaken by marvellous organisations such as the Carers Trust, who look for ways to support all carers to remain resilient and well. Our own experience of working with the Mid Wales Health Collaborative, Hywel Dda University Health Board, and Ceredigion County Council has clearly demonstrated that there are valuable lessons to learn from workforce development theories and practice.

Our work, which identifies carers as the ‘third workforce’ has shown that we can adapt and co-produce resilience and wellbeing programmes that have meaningful outcomes for the carers, which translates into healthier futures for everyone.

We have already shared reports relating to the third workforce through the Academy of Fab Stuff and shared learning with our national and international colleagues, if you would like to join the discussion about the third workforce please get in touch at

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