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Scotland’s carers save economy £10.8 billion a year – the cost of a second NHS

10 November 2015

Today, a new report1 from Carers UK and the University of Sheffield reveals that the 509,7962 people who provide unpaid care for a disabled, seriously-ill or older loved one in Scotland save the state £10.8 billion every year – close to the cost of a second NHS in Scotland3

The report, Valuing Carers 2015 – the rising value of carers’ support, is the third in a series looking at the value of carers’ support to the UK economy. It shows a staggering increase in the value of carers’ support in Scotland since 2001, almost doubling from £6 billion to £10.8 billion. Researchers attribute this rise to a dramatic increase in the number of hours people are caring for, combined with an increase in the cost of replacement care4.


Carers Scotland Director Simon Hodgson has warned: “If the Nation’s carers were unable to continue supporting their loved ones, it would leave the state with a £10.8 billion black hole. As if this wasn’t worrying enough, we believe there are far more carers in Scotland than the report estimates, meaning that the consequences for society of this support dropping off would be even more catastrophic.”


The warning comes as Carers Scotland calls for better financial support and employment rights for carers ahead of the UK Treasury’s Comprehensive Spending Review.

Today’s report reveals that more people are caring for a loved one than ever before. Since 2001, the carer population in Scotland has grown by 6.2%; outstripping the rate of the general population growth in Scotland during this same period (5.9%)5.

Not only are more people caring, but they are caring for longer. Since 2001, the number of people providing 20-49 hours of care a week in Scotland has almost doubled (49%) and those providing 50 hours of care or more a week has increased by more than a fifth (21%).


The number of people needing care, and those needing care for longer periods of time, has increased significantly since 2001. However, as the Scottish population continues to age, local authority funding is in decline, leaving families to increasingly step in to fill the gap. Indeed, local councils in Scotland have seen their funding decrease in real terms by 8.5% since 2010. Further reductions to the Scottish budget, mean that this pressure on public services will continue6.


Simon Hodgson, Director of Carers Scotland said:  

“Caring will touch all of our lives at some point, yet society and public services still haven’t grasped the extent to which our economy relies on the unpaid care provided by family and friends. If even a small percentage of people were unable to continue caring in Scotland, this would be catastrophic for the economy – even more so as we believe the number of carers in Scotland to be far greater than the estimates in today’s report.


“The Scottish Government has strengthened carers’ rights to local information, advice and support through the Carers (Scotland) Bill and last month The First Minister committed to increasing Carer’s Allowance – the lowest paid benefit of its kind – to the same level as Jobseeker’s Allowance. Whilst these changes are welcome, there is still more that needs to be done to support carers, such as rights to care leave in the workplace and an NHS that is more responsive to the needs of carers and their families.


“With this in mind, the UK Spending Review must recognise the vital contribution carers make to society – and will continue to make – by committing to improve financial support and employment rights for carers, and taking steps to create a carer-friendly NHS.”


Sue Yeandle, Professor of Sociology at the University of Sheffield and Director of CIRCLE (Centre for International Research on care, Labour and Equalities) co-authored the report. Professor Yeandle said:

“It is vital to recognise the true scale of carer support. In estimating the value of care, we are able to highlight the importance of the contribution that carers make, unpaid, to our society and our economy.


“There are more people caring for a loved one, and more people needing care, than ever before. This increase has occurred in the context of large reductions to home care services in recent years, raising serious concerns about whether the services families need to help them care well and have a life alongside caring will be there in the future. Carers are doing more than ever to support others; we must ensure that they get the support and recognition they need and deserve.”

The report outlines a number of key recommendations from Carers UK ahead of the Treasury’s Comprehensive Spending Review on 25 November. These include:

  • Improve financial support for carers: Nearly half of carers providing the greatest levels of support have told Carers UK that they are struggling to make ends meet. The Government must set out a clear strategy for improving carers’ incomes and this must form a key part of the new cross-Government Carers Strategy.
  • Promote a carer-friendly NHS: A new stream of work to make the NHS more responsive to the needs of carers, such as introducing annual health checks or Carers Passports, is imperative to promoting the health of carers and enabling them to provide care without putting their own health at risk.
  • Introduce a right to paid care leave: Nearly half of carers are in work but many struggle with the strain of juggling work and care.  As demand for care continues to increase and the state retirement age rises, the dual pressure of balancing care and work is becoming a reality for more and more people. Carers UK is calling for a mandatory period of paid care leave of 5-10 days so that carers can juggle their caring responsibilities without it impacting negatively on their employment and, therefore, their financial security.
  • Stimulate a diverse care market to give carers better choice and flexibility: Far from replacing family care, strong social care support enables families and close friends to care while remaining part of the labour market, generating revenue for Government while securing their own long term financial security.

To download a copy of the report, visit:


Notes to editor

1 Valuing Carers 2015 – the rising value of carers’ support [2015] University of Sheffield, University of Leeds and CIRCLE, published by Carers UK

2 The figure of 509,796 carers in Scotland is based on the latest official estimates of the Scottish population (2012-based Subnational Population Projections [2014] ONS). The Census 2011 puts the number of unpaid carers in Scotland at 492,031. Estimates from the Scottish government put the number of adult carers in Scotland at 759,000 and the number of young carers in Scotland at 29,000. These figures are not used in this report as they are not based on the Census 2011 data

3 NHS Scotland spending on health for 2014-15 was £11.96bn 

4 The unit cost of replacement care in 2015 is £17.20/hour; this was £17/hour in 2011 and £11.40/hour in 2001 (Personal social services expenditure and unit costs, final report, England: 2013 to 2014 [2014] ONS)

 5 Based on Scotland population estimates for 2015 (see reference 2) and Census 2001 Scotland population figure

6 An overview of local government in Scotland 2015, Audit Scotland’s Accounts Commission


About Valuing Carers 2015 report

Valuing Carers 2015 – the rising value of carers’ support is the third in a series of research reports looking at the value to the UK economy of the support provided by unpaid carers.

This report is authored by Professor Sue Yeandle (University of Sheffield) and Dr Lisa Buckner (University of Leeds) and published by Carers UK.   


About University of Sheffield

The University of Sheffield is one of the world’s leading universities, with almost 26,000 of the brightest students from around 120 countries learning alongside over 1,200 of the best academics from across the globe. A member of the UK’s prestigious Russell Group of leading research-led institutions, it offers world-class teaching and research excellence across a wide range of disciplines and has won four Queen’s Anniversary Prizes in the last decade in recognition of the outstanding contribution it makes to the UK’s intellectual, economic, cultural and social life.


About CIRCLE (Centre for International Research on Care, Labour and Equalities)

CIRCLE joined the University of Sheffield’s Faculty of Social Sciences, with its long-standing reputation for delivering world class research and commitment to addressing the major challenges facing society, in 2015. A wide range of the Faculty’s work is undertaken in partnership with non-academic organisations and its ideas lead academic debates internationally, shaping policy and practice across the globe.

Led by Directors Prof.Sue Yeandle and Dr. Andrea Wigfield, CIRCLE has specialised in research on care, carers and caring since its inception in 2006, and brings to the University its portfolio of research developed over more than a decade of collaboration and partnership with Carers UK. The centre works collaboratively to produce robust research to inform policy, practice and academic debate, and works with many partners in universities around the world and in the government, policymaker, NGO and private sectors. 


About University of Leeds

The University of Sheffield’s School of Sociology and Social Policy has a broad and active research programme that informs and enlightens academic teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate level.

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