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Average person in Scotland more likely to be unpaid carer than homeowner

by Fiona Collie 20 November 2019

⦁ Figures released for Carers Rights Day show two thirds of adults in Scotland can expect to care unpaid for a loved one in their lifetime
⦁ Women taking on caring responsibilities twelve years earlier than men
⦁ Carers Scotland calls for all parties to commit to sustainable investment in social care

You are more likely to care unpaid for a loved one than own your own home if you live in Scotland, new figures show.

Carers Scotland has published analysis by the Universities of Sheffield and Birmingham of data from 1991 to 2018 which shows that 65% of adults in Scotland have cared unpaid for a loved one. This is higher than estimates showing 62% of the population owns their own home.

Owning a home is a common life milestone and something many Scottish people prepare for. But figures released for Carers Rights Day reveal the stark reality that the average person in Scotland can just as likely expect to become an unpaid carer for someone who is older, disabled or seriously ill - something that few people are prepared for.

The research also reveals that the average person in Scotland has a 50:50 chance of caring by 49 - long before they reach retirement age.

Women can expect to take on caring responsibilities twelve years earlier than men. Half of women will care by the age of 45, compared to half of men who can expect to care at 57.

This means that Scottish women are far more likely to care during their working life – highlighting the need for employers to support their employees to stay in work by adopting flexible working practices and having a statutory right of five to ten days of paid care leave.

Simon Hodgson, Director of Carers Scotland, said:

“Many of us don’t expect to become an unpaid carer but the reality is two in three of us will do in our lifetimes.
“Our research shows women are disproportionately affected, facing difficult decisions about their loved ones’ health, family finances and how best to combine paid work and care more than a decade earlier than men.

“The next UK government has to help address this gender inequality by giving carers a statutory right of five to ten days of paid care leave. The Scottish Government must continue to invest in supporting carers by prioritising sustainable, long term investment in our social care system so that the hundreds of thousands of people caring for loved ones can stay in work and look after their own health.  We’re urging all across the Scottish Parliament, to commit to delivering long term investment in social care so that people can look after loved ones.

Carers Scotland would also encourage employers across Scotland to become Carer Positive.  This Scottish Government funded initiative, operated by Carers Scotland, recognises and supports employers to build a supportive and inclusive workplace for staff who are, or will become carers – supporting carers to stay in the workplace.”

Separate research by the charity reveals significant consequences for carers in Scotland coping without support. More than a third of carers (37%) were struggling to make ends meet, with almost half of these carers (47%) cutting back on essentials like food and heating; almost a quarter don’t know how they are going to pay for their retirement.  As well as impact on incomes, carers described their physical (25%) and mental health was bad or very bad and over 9 in 10 (93%) said that they had experienced loneliness and social isolation.

About this research

This research was undertaken as part of the Sustainable Care: Connecting people and systems programme, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

Figures are calculated using data for the period 1991 to 2018. The sample includes individuals who participated in the surveys British Household Panel Survey/Understanding Society for more than 15 years between 1991 and 2018.

Download the research at:

Carers Rights Day 2019: Helping you find your way

Each year Carers Scotland and Carers UK holds Carers Rights Day to bring organisations across the UK together to help carers in their local community know their rights and find out how to get the help and support they are entitled to. 

Every year 160,000 people in Scotland become carers, something few have been able to plan for. This Carers Rights Day we’re joining together with organisations across the Scotland to help carers in their local communities find their way.

This year’s Carers Rights Day is taking place on 21st November 2019 and is kindly supported by Barclays and Nutricia Advanced Medical Nutrition.

Download Carers Rights Guide for carers click here

Sustainable Care programme

The Sustainable Care: Connecting people and systems research programme explores how care arrangements, currently ‘in crisis’ in parts of the UK, can be made sustainable and deliver wellbeing outcomes. It is funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. Led by Professor Sue Yeandle at the University of Sheffield, Sustainable Care brings together academics from eight universities, including the University of Birmingham, and works with an extended network of national and international policy, practice and academic partners.

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