Carer's Allowance Supplement - evaluation: qualitative research (annex A)

This report presents findings from qualitative research conducted by Ipsos MORI Scotland as part of the wider evaluation of Carer’s Allowance Supplement

6. Impact of Carer's Allowance Supplement on feeling recognised and valued by society

Key findings

Overwhelmingly, the feeling among carers was that the general public have very little awareness of the work they do.

CAS was not perceived to have raised awareness or the profile of carers among the general public and had not, therefore, made them feel more recognised or valued by society in general.

However, the introduction of CAS had made carers feel a little more recognised and valued by the Scottish Government: it showed the government had thought about them; felt like an acknowledgement and a 'thank you'; and showed their work had value.

This chapter explores the extent to which carers currently feel valued and recognised for their role by different elements of society, and the impact that CAS has had on this.

Awareness of the role of carers

Overwhelmingly, the feeling among carers was that the general public have very little awareness of the work they do and therefore the role is not valued by wider society. Carers thought the public were:

  • not aware of the societal contribution they make and how much money they save the public purse
  • not aware of how much work is involved and how relentless it can often feel
  • not aware of the stress and emotional toil that is often involved.

"I have had people saying to me, oh, it must be great you are able to sit at home and watch TV all day and do nothing – I have had actually people saying that. You're like, you have no idea what we do, and the pressure always to make sure that my husband is okay".

Female, 55+, Caring for partner

Participants highlighted a number of misconceptions of the role that they felt were common. Examples included the view that a carer was "just being a parent" when caring for their severely disabled child, that caring for a friend was "just chatting and going for coffee" and a confusion between paid and unpaid carers. Others, who were caring for people with mental health issues, suggested that those conditions were often "invisible" – which meant that the carer's role was invisible too.

Carers felt that most people just lacked awareness and had never thought about the issue. However, a minority of people were perceived to have negative or even hostile views: carers were being "lazy" or "sponging" off the state. One carer reported that he had been "vilified" locally and told to "get a job".

This lack of awareness was attributed to the fact that most caring work is unseen, "behind closed doors" and not talked about enough. But, more fundamentally, carers felt that it was impossible to understand what was involved unless you were in that situation yourself – and even their close family and friends did not fully appreciate it. Several participants acknowledged that they did not realise themselves what it meant to be a carer until they were in that position.

"I don't bang on to my friends or most of them what we have to do, you know, things for [daughter] with her personal care and one thing and another, it's not something I throw in their face, I just say I've got extra things to do and they just generally kind of leave it. They don't ask and I don't really say. […] So, I think in a lot of ways people they do underestimate what people have to do. I think they just see me pushing a kid in a wheelchair and they just think, oh, you have to have a ramp or whatever, and there is just so much more, you know, in the background, that I just don't think that a lot of people either understand or they don't want to understand, they don't care, they just go, well it's not me that's having to do it and that's it. So, I think in a lot of ways, no, people don't understand, no".

Female, 35-54, Caring for child under 18

"I've got brothers and sisters that haven't a Scooby what I do".

Female, 35-54, Caring for adult daughter

Suggestions for raising awareness included: carers talking more about the role – one participant suggested that they should 'open up about it' as people have done more recently with mental health issues; increased representation on television and in the media; and education. There was a view that slightly more attention has been paid to carers recently and that social media has played a part in that. There was also a feeling that the COVID-19 lockdown may help increase understanding a little by giving people a 'taste' of what some aspects of full-time caring can be like.

Although carers did not feel recognised by wider society, they did tend to feel that their role was recognised – to some extent at least – by their family and friends, and by professionals who were more closely involved and saw some of what they did first-hand. Examples mentioned included doctors, other health professionals, teachers, social workers and carers groups. However, others reported negative experiences with agencies – such as battles with their local authority over respite bills or what equipment was essential, or having to repeatedly provide proof about the illness of the person they cared for. In those circumstances, they did not feel valued or recognised.

Our questions focused on perceptions of being valued and recognised by wider society but some participants did talk spontaneously about being valued and appreciated by the person they cared for.

The impact of CAS on societal awareness

The consensus among participants was that CAS had not raised awareness or the profile of carers among the general public and had not made them feel more recognised or valued by society in general.

"I don't think anybody else knows about it. Carers highlight it and go, oh, that was good, but I don't think anybody else, I don't even think they know it exists".

Male, 55+, Caring for adult son

However, there was a less common view that it may have raised the profile of carers a little – mainly through news stories at the time it was introduced.

Recognition by government

The dominant view was that government did not generally recognise the role of carers. Evidence of this cited by carers included:

  • The low level of Carer's Allowance (currently a maximum of £67.25 per week[5]). Some compared this with the significantly higher costs of professional carers visiting the home or residential care and one participant equated it to an hourly rate of 39p[6] (based on 24/7 care)
  • A view that the government "only provide money" and not other help (e.g. practical assistance or respite care)
  • A view that the government "don't listen" to carers

"They just don't care, as I say, they give you your money and that's it, you just do your job. As long as they're not having to pay for somebody to go and do that, they're happy".

Female, 35-54, Caring for child under 18

Where participants made distinctions between the UK Government and the Scottish Government, they tended to feel that the Scottish Government recognised carers more – and this was largely due to the provision of CAS.

"Certainly not the UK government, I've got to say the fact that the Scottish Government has come up with that, then they must obviously be recognising people who are caring and that's a good thing".

Male, 55+, Caring for adult son

Others, however, felt unrecognised by both the UK and Scottish Governments.

CAS has therefore gone some way to making carers feel more recognised and valued by the Scottish Government. They thought the introduction of CAS:

  • showed the government had thought about them
  • felt like an acknowledgement and a 'thank you'
  • showed their work had value and was a recognition that the level of Carer's Allowance was low.

"I feel more recognised – not by the people of Scotland but by the Scottish Government".

Female, 35-54, Caring for friend

"[It feels] as if someone out there knows what you're doing".

Female, 55+, Caring for adult daughter

This was true even amongst those who did not think CAS had made much difference to them personally (in terms of financial impact, or impact on their quality of life).

However, it was generally judged to have had 'a little' impact, rather than a big impact, on feelings of recognition and value – and, more exceptionally, there was a view that it had made no difference.

"It's nice to get a small bonus and that, but I don't really know if £500 or £450 a year actually makes you feel any more valued, I would have said not, probably no".

Female, 35-54, Caring for child under 18



Back to top