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Embargoed: 00.01Thursday 23 November 2023  


The demands of caring pushing unpaid carers to the brink 

A new report published by Carers Scotland shows the devasting impact the health and social care crisis is having on the health of Scotland’s 800,000 unpaid carers. 


  • Over a quarter of carers (28%) said their mental health is bad or very bad, rising to 37% for carers on Carer’s Allowance.
  • A third (36%) of carers said that they had thoughts related to self-harm or suicide.
  • Over half (54%) of carers said that their physical health had suffered because of their caring role, with one in five (20%) suffering a physical injury from caring.  


The results of a survey of over 1,700 Scottish unpaid carers shows the ongoing struggle that they are facing to access the services and support they need to care and manage their health and wellbeing.  Despite their huge contribution to the Scottish economy, to our communities and to the lives of the people they care for, carers are facing deteriorating physical and mental health, loneliness and isolation with too many driven to deep mental despair as they are denied the support they need to maintain a healthy life. 

Only a third (38%) of carers are receiving support from formal social care services and over a third (35%) have not had any break from caring in the last year. There is lack of involvement of carers on hospital discharge with 60% not engaged by health services, despite being expected to provide care to someone at home. Only 18% were provided with sufficient support on discharge to protect their health or the health of the person they care for. 

Caring, particularly with such insufficient support, is damaging carers mental health. Carers shared in detail the impact that caring had on their mental health, with the majority (88%) having difficulty sleeping, continuous low mood (85%) and feelings of hopelessness (82%) including regularly feeling tearful (71%).  This has led a shocking level of carers saying that they have thoughts of self-harm or suicide. 

And, concerningly, this lack of support from both health and social care services leaves little time for carers to look after their own health, with four in 10 (41%) saying that they have had to put off receiving healthcare treatment because of their caring role. 


Richard Meade, Director of Carers Scotland said: 

The findings in this report paint a stark picture of carers buckling under the strain of propping up a failing health and social care system.  Where social care cannot provide a service, it is unpaid carers who are expected to step in, where the NHS needs a “bed” it is carers who are left to support discharge. This all comes at a great physical and mental health cost to carers and for many this is growing into a significant burden of care, which is pushing them to the brink of collapse.  

“We are deeply concerned that without proper support and a focus on improving the wellbeing of unpaid carers then Scotland is walking into another public health crisis, as carers will simply not be able to continue leading to even more pressure on NHS and social care services. We need urgent action now from Government and partners, including Dedicated funding and planning to ensure that carers can access the health services they need as well as support from social care to give carers a break from caring to prevent the shocking levels of poor health they are experiencing and improve their wellbeing to enable them to continue caring.”  

The report sets out a range of recommendations for the Scottish Government, the NHS and local authorities including urgent investment in physical and mental health support for carers, increased investment in breaks from caring and better identification, information and assessment for carers. 


Media contacts 

Alternatively, speak to Christine Robertson, Media and Communications Officer for Carers Scotland press office Tel: 07553 037992


Notes to Editor: 

  1. These findings come from the first in a series of three reports produced by Carers Scotland, exploring key findings from their annual State of Caring Scotland survey, which was conducted between June and August this year and completed by 1,771 unpaid carers across the country.

  2. An unpaid carer is a family member, partner, friend or neighbour who helps a person with daily activities that they would not be able to manage if they did not have help. This could be a partner, family member or friend who has a long term or terminal illness, someone who is disabled, has a mental health condition, is affected by addiction or who needs extra help as they grow older. There are approximately 800,000 people in Scotland providing such unpaid care. It would cost an estimated £13.1 billion every year to replace the care they provide.

  3. The report is launched on national Carers Rights Day. Each year Carers Scotland promotes Carers Rights Day to help identify carers and signposting them to information, advice and support. Whether someone has recently become a carer, realised they have been caring for a while without support or has been caring for someone for many years, it’s important they understand their rights and are able to access the support that is available to them whenever they need it. The theme for this year’s Carers Rights Day is “Your Rights: today, tomorrow and in the future”.

You can find the report in full in here:

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