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The Office for National Statistics has released 2021 Census data that filters unpaid carers by ethnicity, religion, disability, marital status, sex and sexual orientation. The findings show:

  • More unpaid carers aged 16 and over are lesbian, gay, bisexual or other than non-carers (4% of unpaid carers identified as LGB compared with 3% of non carers. This is the first time the population was asked to record sexual orientation, and the data shows there are 147,000 LGB+ carers in England and Wales - 86,000 are female and 61,000 are male. England has 138,000 LGB+ carers and Wales has 9,000. The highest proportion of LGB+ people care for 9 hours or less every week (4%).

  • More unpaid carers are disabled than non-carers. Despite an overall reduction in the proportion of people with a disability between the 2011 and 2021 Census, the % of unpaid carers with a disability has increased since 2011 to 28% in England and 30% in Wales. Over a third of unpaid carers providing over 50 hours of care per week are disabled in both England and Wales.

  • The ethnicity results are similar to those in the 2011 Census, showing that the majority of unpaid carers are White: English, Welsh, Scottish, Northern Irish or British (78% in England and 93% in Wales). The religion that carers most commonly identified with was Christian, with 49% and 46% reporting this as their religion in England and Wales, respectively. There has been an increase in the percentage of unpaid carers identifying with no religion in both England and Wales, reflecting changes in the wider population.

  • Just over half (51%) of unpaid carers aged over 16 are married or in a registered civil partnership in both England and Wales - higher than non-carers. However, since 2011 there has been an increase in the percentage of unpaid carers who have never been married or registered a civil partnership.


Helen Walker, chief executive at Carers UK, said:

“For the first time, we now have robust, representative data telling us how many LGB+ unpaid carers there are – 147,000 across England and Wales. Carers UK’s research has shown that LGB+ carers face specific challenges in their caring role, such as caring for family members who do not recognise, or have rejected, their LGB+ identity, or younger LGB+ carers having fewer opportunities to explore their identity. These challenges are complex and can mean LGB+ carers experience increased isolation and discrimination when attempting to access services. 

“This data shows the need to bring in tailored practice so that LGB+ carers are adequately supported. Carers UK has produced a best practice guide with good practice from different organisations, drawing on carers’ personal experiences, and expert carers providing input.  We recommend local carers and other support organisations, local authorities and health organisations read the guide and implement its recommendations. Further research with trans carers will be published shortly, and this will explore the ONS Census 2021 data on gender identity.

“This new Census data also allows local authorities, health bodies and others to look at the number of LGB+ carers locally, helping them to plan appropriate services and support.”

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