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What can we learn from the Can You Tell We Care report?

The Health Foundation Network Data Lab’s recent Can you tell we care? report used a novel approach to identifying unpaid carers.

Using four sites across the UK (Leeds, Liverpool and Wirrall, Neath Port Talbot and North West London), the report’s authors compared the number of unpaid carers visible in GP and Local Authority records.

They were able to show that, in contrast to findings in the 2021 Census, only a tiny percentage of unpaid carers are currently known to their doctor and social services. This ranged from between 1% and 11.5%, depending on location and year in question.

Carers Trust already has concerns that the 2021 Census figures may have under-reported the true number of unpaid carers in the UK. This is because the Census definition of an unpaid carer was changed, leaving many people who really are unpaid carers less likely to self-identify as a carer.

Given those concerns, the Health Foundation Network’s most recent data now suggests an even more worrying disparity between those who identify as unpaid carers and those actually known to potential support providers like GP surgeries and social services.

Particularly telling was that those carers identified in primary care settings (GP surgeries, pharmacies etc.) were very often not the same carers as those registered in the Local Authority data. Just 7% of unpaid carers were known to both primary carer settings and their local authority.

Why does this matter? We know that many carers do not necessarily require immediate support. However, for services to take a preventative approach, it is vital that carer status is known so advice and guidance can be in place to help prevent unpaid carers getting to crisis point.

This can be partly achieved by better linking data between health and social care. Ensuring unpaid carers are identifiable between both systems encourages greater communication and joint working where and when it might be needed.

Data, however is just one piece of puzzle. We need professionals to understand how best to log and recognise unpaid carers in the first place. For example, we know there are multiple methods currently to log the carer on GP records. We need one system that is universally recognised.

We also need a system that enables extraction and use of that data so it is helpful in the hands of organisations and services that can do something about it. Here at Carers Trust, we are in a perfect position to support this. Through our 126 local Network Partners, over 1 million unpaid carers were supported last year.

Alongside the data we collect through our partners, not only can data be enriched further, it can map needs and service provision ensuring all unpaid carers receive the support they require and deserve.


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