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  • New 2021 census data shows a widening gap in the percentage of unpaid carers in the most and least deprived areas of England and Wales
  • Higher proportion of women aged 85 or over providing unpaid care since 2011
  • Older carers (70+) providing high levels of care - 50 hours or more per week

Today the Office for National Statistics has published further 2021 census data about the age, gender and deprivation of unpaid carers. Unpaid carers provide help and support to a relative or friend who has a disability, illness, mental health condition or who needs extra help as they grow older.

Caring and areas of deprivation

In England there is a higher percentage of people providing unpaid care in the most deprived areas: 8.1% of people in the least deprived areas are unpaid carers, compared with 10.1% in the most deprived areas.

This is a difference of 2.0 percentage points. In 2011, the difference between the percentage of unpaid carers in the most and least deprived areas was just 0.4%.

The intensity of care is also higher, nearly double the rate, in the most deprived areas, with 4% of people in most deprived areas providing over 50 hours of unpaid care compared with 1.9% in the least deprived areas.

A similar pattern was seen in Wales, where the percentage of unpaid carers ranged from 9.7% in the least deprived quintile to 11.5% in the most deprived quintile in 2021. This is a 1.8 percentage point difference, compared with a 0.5 percentage point difference in 2011.

Older carers providing more hours of care

For both men and women, the older age groups provide the highest hours of unpaid care per week. Women aged between 75 to 79 years and men aged between 85 to 89 years provided the highest percentage of 50 hours or more of care compared with all other age groups.

Shockingly, there has been an increase in the percentage of women aged 85 years and over providing unpaid care (6.3% in 2021 compared to 5.9% in 2011). This is despite a slight decrease in people providing unpaid care in 2021 compared with the 2011 Census in England across most age groups.

Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said:

“The increasing proportion of unpaid carers in the most deprived areas of England and Wales is concerning news. The Government needs to put carers front and centre of its levelling up plans by considering these carers’ needs and the targeted support they could benefit from in a National Carers Strategy.

“It is alarming that there are more women over 85 years old providing unpaid care, when there has been a slight decrease in unpaid carers across every other age group. At a point in life where they can do less than they once could, and likely dealing with health problems of their own, this group must be better supported to care. Similarly, given those over 70 are most likely to be providing 50 hours or more of unpaid care per week, it is imperative that that Government delivers the funding our social care system so desperately needs so that these older carers can get support and necessary breaks.

“It is not surprising that those aged 50-59 are most likely to care overall, but they too need help. During a cost-of-living crisis, and at a time when the Government is encouraging over 50s to re-enter the workforce, they must consider the needs of this group. The Carer’s Leave Bill, if successful in its passage through the Houses, will be pivotal in supporting carers to stay in the workplace, giving GB employees with caring responsibilities a right to take up to five days of unpaid leave.”

Key findings show:

  • In England, women aged between 55 to 59 years provided the most unpaid care (19.9%). Men aged between 60 and 64 years were most likely to provide unpaid care (13.0%).
  • Women were more likely to provide unpaid care than men in every age group up to 75 to 79 years. From the age of 80 years onwards, men were statistically significantly more likely to provide unpaid care.
  • The highest percentage of unpaid care is provided in the North East (10.1%), and 4.7% were providing 35 hours of care or more per week.
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