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Nearly 1000 people in the Scotland become unpaid carers every day

by Fiona Collie 23 November 2022
  • Hundreds of thousands of people beginning or ending a caring role each year
  • Carers Scotland calls for step change in the way that unpaid carers are identified and supported

Academic research released for Carers Rights Day (24th November 2022) shows the astonishing numbers of people in the Scotland starting or ending an unpaid caring role each year.

Published by the charity Carers Scotland, statistical analysis by the Centre for Care, University of Sheffield of data from 2010 to 2020 shows that on average nearly 1000 people in Scotland become an unpaid carer every single day – roughly 6,500 each week.

In a year, more than 340,000 people in the Scotland become unpaid carers, with a similar though smaller number leaving their caring role.

Of those 340,000 starting caring roles for older, disabled or seriously ill family and friends, more than 150,000 are in paid employment.  190,000 new carers are women and 150,000 are men.

The analysis underlines the growing need for unpaid carers as a group to be identified and supported within society - by the NHS, social care, employers and businesses as well as in the broader community. 

Richard Meade, Director of Carers Scotland, said:

“With our ageing population and people with disabilities living longer – coupled with an ever-greater focus on care being provided at home - it is no surprise that hundreds of thousands of people are taking on an unpaid caring role every year.

“Most carers would call themselves a loving partner, parent or child or a good friend, and do not immediately identify their caring role - meaning many miss out on practical support as a result. Our research shows that 97% of carers took a year or more to identify themselves as a carer – with nearly half (46%) going on to care a decade without identifying themself – often missing out on essential practical and financial support.

“All the evidence shows that having an unpaid caring role means you are more likely to experience poorer health and poverty. It is therefore imperative that both the national care service and the carers strategy deliver, and carers are fast-tracked to the support they need to carry out their caring role by being routinely identified within the NHS, social care settings and by employers.

“Given the cost-of-living crisis, recruitment challenges in the labour market and the pressures on health and social care, there are benefits for every sector in making this happen as well as huge benefits for families themselves.”

Carers Scotland is calling for a step change in the way that carers are identified across society to ensure they get the practical or financial support they need. It is also calling for organisations to take part in Carers Rights Day and Carers Week next year (5th June 2023) to help raise awareness of caring.

Carers Scotland wants to see the NHS routinely and systematically identify unpaid carers and signpost them to support, to improve their health and wellbeing. It is also critical that employers raise awareness of caring, introduce measures which identify carers in their workforce and provide flexibility, to support more carers to continue working.

Professor Matt Bennett, Deputy Director Centre for Care, said

“This research shows how dynamic unpaid care is in the UK. While headline figures often focus on how many unpaid carers we have in society at any one time, we lose sight of the people who become unpaid carers or stop their unpaid caring roles every day."

“We describe the transitions in unpaid care over the past decade and demonstrate that they are not experienced by people equally.

“The changing nature of unpaid care means we need flexible and dynamic policies and practices to identify and support unpaid carers and the diversity of their experiences.”

- ENDS -

Notes to Editors

This analysis was undertaken by researchers at the Centre for Care. The authors gratefully acknowledge the support of the Economic and Social Research Council. The data analysed in this report are from the UK Household Longitudinal Survey (UKHLS), also known as Understanding Society, and are calculated using data from 2010-2020. The sample includes all people who participated in the survey in any of those years. We only calculate carer churn from 2011 onwards, requiring the use of the data from 2010. 

 Media contacts

  • Fiona Collie, Head of Policy & Public Affairs 07967826238 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
  • Richard Meade, Director 07368970219 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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