Unpaid carers provide care and support to family members, friends and neighbours. Any person can become a carer at any time in their life. The exact number of unpaid carers living in Scotland is not known but it was estimated in the Scotland's Carers - Update Release that there were around 700,000 to 800,000 before the Covid-19 pandemic. A YouGov poll commissioned for Carers Week 2020 suggests that number could have since grown to over a million.
The Carers (Scotland) Act 2016, which was took effect on 1st April 2018, aims to enable unpaid carers to be better supported so that they can continue to care, if they wish to do so, while also having a life alongside caring. The Act introduces the right to a new Adult Carer Support Plan or Young Carer Statement based on each carer's personal outcomes and needs for support. These are available to everyone providing unpaid care regardless of whether they are providing, or intend to provide, care on a substantial and regular basis.
This report presents an overview of the results from the Carers Census data collection covering financial years 2019-20 and 2020-21. The Carers Census collects a variety of information on unpaid carers and the support they are provided with, in order to help monitor the implementation of the Act. Data is collected directly from Local Authorities and Carer Centres, which are independent charities that offer practical support, advice and information to unpaid carers.
The implementation of the Act was a significant change to practice. It has required changes to the data that is collected by Local Authorities and Carer Centres and the implementation of new systems to collect and record that data. This process is still ongoing and therefore not all providers were able to collect and record the information requested. As such, data for most areas is incomplete. The results presented here have been published as 'Data Under Development' and should not be considered as National or Official Statistics.
1.1 Effect of the Covid-19 pandemic
The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have been particularly acute in the area of social care. As stated above, the number of unpaid carers is thought to have risen as access to health and social care services was limited due to demand and restrictions. Support for unpaid carers also changed through the pandemic as there was an increased emphasis on providing the necessary information on infection control and the correct use of Personal and Protective Equipment (PPE).
However, it is likely that not all effects of the pandemic are reflected in the data presented here. While many carers registered with local carers services when they were prioritised for the Covid-19 vaccine, they will not have been included in the Carers Census unless they received a support plan or some kind of formal support. This means that carers who were registered with local services but only received newsletters or informational leaflets without any further contact would not have been recorded in the Carers Census.
1.2 Note on Data Quality
As the Carers Census is still a relatively new data collection, many data providers were still in the midst of implementing new systems to collect and record the required data during the collection period. Data returns were received from around 70% of data providers; however, some providers were only able to return information on a subsection of the carers they support. As such, the figures reported here will be an undercount of the true number of carers being supported by local services.
The data completeness of returns also varied. On the whole, demographic variables were well returned while other variables such as those related to support plans and carers' needs were less well returned. This means that certain analysis presented in Sections 3.3 and 3.4 is based on a smaller number of carers for whom the relevant information was provided.
Due to this variation in data completeness, the figures presented here will not reflect the true number of adult carer support plans and young carer statements prepared or the support which carers receive under the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016. We expect to see improvement in the number of variables returned over time as data providers' systems are improved in order to better collect and record this information.
As such, the results in this report should be interpreted with care. All figures presented here are rounded. Please read the notes accompanying the tables and charts for further information on data quality. The results in this report should not be directly compared to the 2018-19 publication, since the 2018-19 figures cover a 6 month period rather than a full year.
The data for the tables and charts is available in an accompanying Excel document.
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