Carers in England and Wales providing more hours of care than 10 years ago

3 mins read

Tuesday 24 January 2023

Tags: carers, unpaid carers, census, Office for National Statistics, disabled children, sandwich carers

Unpaid carers – including parent carers – are providing more hours of care now than they were 10 years ago.

That’s according to the latest census data by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) about unpaid carers released last week. The census happens every 10 years and gives a picture of all the people and households in England and Wales, including the number of unpaid carers and those living with a disability of health condition.

The Census 2021 reveals there are more people providing 20-49 hours of unpaid care each week compared to 2011. There has also been a slight increase in the number of people providing 50 or more weekly hours of unpaid care.

And there are now more unpaid carers who are aged between 29-49 than those aged 50-64, dispelling the myth that carers are always older people.

Support services cut back

Una Summerson, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Contact, said: “Parent carers will not be surprised by this data, which confirms what they have experienced over the last 10 years – support services being cut back, so they are left to do more, often complex, care in the home themselves.

“Many of the families we support are not only caring for their disabled child: they also have elderly parents, who need help and support. And reduced support services – respite care, physiotherapy, occupational and speech and language therapy, as well as mental health services – means they are providing more care and are less able to combine work and caring.”

Growing number of children with additional needs and increased elderly population

Surprisingly, the census results showed that the overall number of unpaid carers has reduced in the last 10 years. It had been widely expected to show an increase due to rising numbers of children with special educational needs and disability (SEND), as well as a rapidly growing elderly population.

In England alone, now there are just under 1.5 million pupils with SEND – an increase of 77,000 in a year – due to advances in medicine and better awareness and identification of additional needs.

Una added: “Many parents don’t identify themselves as unpaid carers because they are looking after their son or daughter. There is a lot of work to do in helping people recognise themselves as carers, so that they can tap into help available.”

In its analysis, the ONS also suggested that the unexpected drop in the overall number of unpaid carers could be attributed to wording differences between the 2011 and 2021 census questions, as well as to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on household mixing, reduced travel and higher death rates in the elderly population.

Caring More Than Most

Following the last census, Contact commissioned the University of Leeds to analyse the data relating to families with disabled children.

Our subsequent report, Caring More Than Most, highlighted the unacceptable difference in the quality of life and opportunities available compared to other carers and families unaffected by disability.

Help available for parent carers

Carers need and deserve better financial support. We want the government to increase the rate and earnings threshold of Carer’s Allowance to allow more parents to work without losing this important benefit. Take part in our Carer’s Allowance campaign.

You can also stay connected with other unpaid carers by joining our private Facebook group for parent carers.