ONS statistics revealed that the number of unpaid carers in England and Wales alone has reached 5.8 million — a rise of 600,000 since 2001.
Another key finding was the alarming number of people providing over 50 hours a week of unpaid care. There are now 1.4 million people providing round-the-clock care — an increase of 270,000 people since 2001.
Based on the census data, Carers Trust estimates that there are now up to seven million unpaid carers across the UK.
Seven million reasons to care
A carer is anyone who provides regular unpaid support for a friend or family member due to illness, disability, mental health problems or an addiction.
For carers, providing full-time support is not a professional career choice, like that of a paid care worker. It is a personal commitment to someone they are close to, often following an unexpected change in that person’s circumstances, such as developing a physical or mental illness or disability.
Each carer’s experience is unique. Many carers might have particular daily tasks in common – but there are certain basic needs shared by all carers in the UK.
Where does the seven million figure come from?
This latest census figure of 5.8 million carers is for England and Wales — representing 10% of the population there. Once stats for Scotland and Northern Ireland have been released, we expect the overall UK figure to sit between 6.5 and 6.6 million.
However, we know that the census does not represent all young carers, as under-18s are not eligible to complete the census. The last census showed 175,000 young carers. But BBC research estimated up to 700,000 — a 525,000 difference. If you add that shortfall to the 6.6million figure, even conservative estimates would have the total number of carers across the whole of the UK at more like seven million people.
Taking the census stats at face-value means not recognising a significant number of young carers — and that the true scale of the problem of total numbers of unpaid carers in the UK, is vastly under-estimated.