Carers Census, Scotland, 2021-22

Third publication of the Carers Census, covering unpaid carers being supported by local services across Scotland in 2021-22.

This document is part of a collection

Background Information

Data Quality

As mentioned in the introduction of this publication, the figures presented in this report are taken from the 2021-22 Carers Census returns.

Some organisations who return data for the census only provide certain support services, such as short breaks and respite, and do not carry out support plans. Other organisations carry out plans but do not provide support services. Therefore, not all organisations have information on every section covered in this report within their systems. As such, the analysis is largely based on records where the information is available.

Organisations have been implementing new systems to collect the required data over the last few years and have been working on improving their data recording. These improvements are reflected in the data; with more organisations submitting data this year, more information available for a greater number of records and fewer missing identifiers. In 2021-22, 10% of records were removed during the de-duplication process due to missing identifiers compared to 17% in 2020-21. The de-duplication process is outlined in Annex 1.

There are some data quality issues that still remain which we hope to improve upon for future publications. These issues should be taken into consideration when interpreting the results included in this report.

The main data quality issues identified are:

  • there are gaps in coverage across Scotland. Data returns were received from around 20% more organisations than in the previous year, but not all areas were equally represented. For instance, some areas have data from multiple services whereas others have data from either statutory social work or from the third sector.
  • some organisations were unable to return information on all of the carers who met the criteria for inclusion in the Carers Census, since the data was not always available. Therefore, the figures presented in this report will be an undercount of the true number of carers being supported by local services.
  • identifiers such as date of birth, gender and datazone were missing for 10% of the records submitted. It can sometimes be difficult to collect this information for carers who are calling or dropping into a carers centre to talk, as minimal information can be recorded. The proportion of records with missing identifiers was lower this year compared to last year and we will work with organisations to improve this further. Records with missing identifiers are removed through the de-duplication process and so not included in the final analysis (See Annex 1 for more information).

Scottish Government and Health Improvement Scotland (HIS) are currently undertaking a review of the Carers Census to identify the issues and identify opportunities to improve the data and process. Several workshops have already been held with multiple organisations who return data for the Carers Census and who work with unpaid carers. The output of this work was summarised by HIS in their Carers Census Discovery Report. Feedback from the workshops and Discovery Report has been incorporated into this year’s Carers Census and will inform the ongoing review work to further improve the Carers Census going forward.

Future Improvements

We will continue the review of the Carers Census, working with organisations who submit data to make further improvements to the process and to make the final data more useful for users.

As well as improving the general data quality, we have also identified other improvements that we plan to implement:

  • for future publications, we intend for the de-duplication process to be carried out by National Records of Scotland who will be able to link the Carers Census data to Scotland’s population spine. The population spine contains the personal identifiers of everyone in the Scottish Census and should allow us to obtain an accurate number of individual carers being supported by local services in Scotland. However, this will be dependent on accurate identifiers being submitted for each carer.
  • we intend to make local area breakdowns available separately, to allow users to see the information available for their area. These will not be included in future publications as it is not advisable to directly compare local areas due to differences in approach to carer support and data recording.

We would welcome any feedback on this report in order to help us improve future publications. If you have any comments or suggestions, please e-mail



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