A hidden army of dads are not only caring for their sick or disabled children but also for another family member or friend, a survey by Carers Trust and the Men's Health Forum reveals.

The research showed that 46% of the men surveyed were not only caring for a young or adult child, but also for a wife or partner, their own parents, or more than one of their children.

The report Dads Care Too (PDF, 599KB) states that many unpaid male carers are still unidentified and unsupported and calls for more help and support to enable dads who are carers to continue to carry out their demanding and often gruelling role.

Recognising the caring roles of dads

Care provided by dads that took part in the survey includes emotional support, help with transportation, tasks like feeding, washing and dressing and carrying out housework or gardening. More than 40% said it had a negative impact on their mental and physical health, and 55% said the needs of male carers were different to those of female carers.

One dad said: "We seem to be treated differently by the medical profession. I think that as most support for my daughter is female, they don't see me as they would her mother."

The dads said they needed support too, and called for their roles to be recognised and for them to be included in networks and activities in the same way as mothers.

They also urged employers to adopt and publicise carer-friendly employment policies to encourage better understanding of dads who care.

Vital to acknowledge dads who are carers

Dr Moira Fraser, Director of Policy and Research for Carers Trust, said:

"Social networks and activities are often not geared up for dads because there is an assumption that most carers are female, but the 2011 Census figures show that four in ten carers in England and Wales are male.

"It's therefore vital that we acknowledge them and provide services designed with them in mind. We need to support the invaluable and often unrewarded and unpaid care that they provide."