Unpaid carers

Unpaid carers provide care and support to family members, friends and neighbours. The people they care for may be affected by disability, physical or mental ill-health, frailty or substance misuse. A carer does not need to be living with the person they care for. Anybody can become a carer at any time in their life and sometimes for more than one person at a time. Carers can be any age from young children to very elderly people.

The actual number of carers is not known but is estimated to be around 700,000 to 800,000. The latest estimated number of carers is 690,000.  This includes 29,000 who are under the age of 18. The Scotland’s Carers research report (March 2015) brings together statistical analysis and research on caring and carers. We recognise the huge contribution made by unpaid carers and continue to work to improve support available to them.


More information is in the following sections:


We have also improved carer benefits. We have:

  • increased Carer’s Allowance by 13% through Carer's Allowance Supplement, benefitting around 83,000 of Scotland’s unpaid carers. In June 2020 we are providing an extra Coronavirus Carer’s Allowance Supplement to carers in receipt of Carer’s Allowance.
  • introduced Young Carer Grant for 16, 17 and 18 year olds with significant caring responsibilities in autumn 2019.

We will introduce a new payment for those looking after more than one disabled child and we will also consult on the eligibility criteria for Carer’s Allowance.

More information on benefits for carers is in our social security policy.

Carers' charter

We published our Carers' Charter in March 2018. This sets out carers' rights under the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016.


  • all carers have the right to a personalised plan to identify what is important to them
  • carers also have the right to support to meet their eligible needs and to choose how that support is delivered through self-directed support
  • every area must have a local carer strategy and carer information and advice service
  • carers also have rights to be involved in assessing the needs of the cared-for person and in decisions about discharging the cared-for person from hospital

Carers Act implementation

We published the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 National Implementation Plan 2016-2019 in October 2017 which sets out priorities for implementing the Act. 

We formed the Carers Act Implementation Steering Group to support the implementation of the Carer's Act. This group includes local authorities, health boards, COSLA, third sector and carer representatives

A range of local third sector and community support is available to carers and what’s on offer will vary depending on where you live. More information about what is available in your local area is on the mygov.scot website. 

Guidance for practitioners

Carer organisations

The national carer organisations are:

Other organisations:

  • Family Fund is the UK’s largest charity providing grants for families raising disabled or seriously ill children and young people
  • Care Information Scotland (CIS) is a phone, webchat and website service providing information about care services for people living in Scotland