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
Information on Carers
The analysis in the following section is based on the individual carers identified through the de-duplication process, as described in Annex 1.
A carer was included in the Carers Census if they:
- had an Adult Carer Support Plan (ACSP) or Young Carer Statement (YCS) or review of their needs as a carer during the reporting period; or
- were offered or requested an ACSP or YCS during the reporting period; and/or
- received a specified support service (including short breaks or respite) during the reporting period.
However, some organisations were unable to return information on all of the carers meeting the above criteria. For instance, some organisations are only able to provide data for carers with a support plan but not for the other carers they support. There were also some areas where a return was received from either social work or third sector but not from both. The figures presented below will therefore be an undercount of the true number of carers being supported by local services.
Number of carers across Scotland
There were 42,050 unique carers identified in the Carers Census in 2021-22. This is more than a 30% increase from the 31,760 unique carers identified in 2020-21.
This rise may be largely accounted for by an increase in the number of organisations submitting data this year. In 2021-22, data was received from 66 organisations compared to 54 organisations in 2020-21 – an increase of around 20%.
Sources, including the Care Inspectorate Inquiry into adult carers' experiences of support, suggest that there was an increase in demand among carers for support during the pandemic. This may have also contributed to the rise in carers identified through the Carers Census.
Despite the increase in the number of organisations returning data, there are still some gaps in coverage across Scotland. The differences in approach to carer support between local areas also make direct local comparisons inadvisable; as do the differences in data recording. For instance, some areas are only able to return information for carers who have a support plan in place while others are able to return information on all the carers they support. Therefore, there are no local area breakdowns included in this publication.
Age and Gender
Around 3 in 5 carers (61%) included in the Carers Census in 2021-22 were working age (18 - 64 year old) adults. Adults aged 65 and over accounted for a quarter of carers identified (25%) while young carers (carers aged under 18) made up 13% of the individual carers identified in 2021-22. This proportion is higher than the previous estimates in the Scotland's Carers - Update Release concerning the total carer population, which suggested that young carers account for less than 5% of unpaid carers. This may indicate that carer support services are reaching a greater proportion of young carers than adult carers.
Around three-quarters of carers in the 2021-22 Carers Census (73%) were female. This proportion is higher than that seen in the Scotland's Carers report, which was based on the total carer population and suggested that closer to 60% of unpaid carers were female. This difference might suggest that female carers are more likely to seek out support from services than male carers.
There are more female carers than male carers in every age group, but the difference is most pronounced in the working age carer group. Figure 1 shows that 79% of working age carers identified in the Carers Census were female in 2021-22. This is consistent with previous findings based on the total carer population which suggested that females of working age are more likely to provide unpaid care than working age males. The data indicates that the gender gap is narrowest for young carers, with females accounting for 58% of young carers and males accounting for 42%.
The data indicates that adult carers were slightly less likely to live in the least deprived areas; however, the difference for young carers was much more pronounced. As shown in Figure 2, 16% of young carers in the Carers Census lived in areas within the most deprived Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) decile compared to 4% who lived in areas in the least deprived SIMD decile. This difference has also been seen in previous years and is consistent with previous findings on the total caring population such as those included in the report on Scotland’s Carers.
The roles of unpaid carers are highly varied. Carers can provide many types of care for the people they care for; such as providing emotional support or helping with shopping, cleaning and other domestic tasks. Some carers will be caring more intensively than others and may be caring for more than one person. This will all contribute to the impact that providing care and support has on a carer.
The analysis in the following sections is based on those carers for whom information was available. Some organisations only provide certain support services, such as short breaks and respite, and do not carry out support plans; while other organisations carry out plans but do not provide support services. Therefore, not all organisations will have information on every section covered in this report.
Carers' Ability and Willingness to Care
The Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 aims to enable unpaid carers to be better supported so that they can continue to care, if they wish to do so. There will be some cases where carers are not able or willing to provide care and support but may still have to continue to do so.
Based on the 13,300 records for which information on both carers’ ability and willingness to provide care was available, the data suggests that 98% of carers were willing to provide care and that 97% were able to do so in 2021-22. The data also suggests that 97% of carers were both able and willing to provide care.
Table 1: Percentage of Carers Able and / or Willing to provide care in 2021-22
Carers Willingness to provide care
Carer Able to provide care
Carer Not Able to provide care
Carer Willing to provide care
Carer Not Willing to provide care
Note: Based on the 13,300 records containing information on both carers’ willingness and ability to provide care. Percentages may not sum exactly due to rounding.
Intensity of Care Provided
Based on the 27,520 records with information on intensity of care in 2021-22, 56% of unpaid carers spent an average of 50+ hours a week providing care. This is around double the proportion (27%) reported in the Scotland’s Carers report, which looked at the total caring population. This may reflect the fact that people with more intense caring roles are more likely to seek support from local services.
In 2021-22, 16% of carers for whom information on intensity of care was available spent less than 19 hours per week providing care. This is less than a third of the proportion (56%) reported in Scotland’s Carers, but again may suggest that people with more intense caring roles are more likely to seek support from local services and so be included in the Carers Census.
The data also showed a deprivation effect for those caring 50+ hours a week, who were more likely to live in more deprived areas (as measured by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD)). In 2021-22, 14% of people caring for 50+ hours a week lived in areas within the most deprived SIMD decile compared to 5% who lived in areas within the least deprived SIMD decile.
Figure 3 shows that the intensity of care provided varied between adult carers and young carers. In 2021-22, 69% of young carers spent less than 19 hours a week providing care compared to 9% of adult carers. This likely reflects differences in the capacity for, and the appropriateness of, higher levels of caring between adult carers and young carers.
Impact of Caring on Carers
Providing care and support to family members, friends and neighbours can have multiple impacts, both positive and negative, on a carer’s life.
There were 23,540 records with information on the impact of the caring role in 2021-22, including 2,170 records for young carers. Carers could experience multiple impacts from their caring role. The most commonly reported impact of caring was on carers’ emotional well-being, with this being reported for 68% of adult carers and 85% of young carers. This was followed by impacts on carers’ life balance, with this being reported for 66% of adult carers and 60% of young carers.
As seen in Figure 4, impacts on health and future plans were also reported for more than half of adult carers. Impacts on the carer’s living environment were more likely to be reported for young carers.
Note: Carers can be impacted by caring in may ways, so individual categories will not sum to 100%.
The data shows that the impacts of providing care varied depending on the average number of hours of cared provided per week. The data suggests that the more hours of care a week provided by carers, the more likely they are to experience impacts such as on their health, finance and future plans. For instance, in 2021-22 36% of carers providing up to 19 hours of care per week experienced an impact on their health compared to 58% of those caring for 50+ hours a week. This is shown in Figure 5.
Note: Carers can be impacted by providing care in many ways, so categories will not sum to 100%.
While the data does not show much variation by deprivation overall, people living in areas within the most deprived SIMD decile appear more likely to experience impacts on their finance and employment. For instance, impacts on carers’ finances were reported for 35% of carers in all SIMD deciles, but were reported for 44% of carers living in areas within the most deprived SIMD decile.
The data also did not show much difference in the impacts reported for different carer relationships or reasons for caring (e.g. cared for person’s dementia, learning disability etc.). However, these results should be treated with caution due to the complexities involved when a carer cares for more than one person. For instance, if a carer is caring for both a spouse with dementia and an elderly neighbour then each role will have its own challenges and will lead to different impacts on the carer which cannot be separated out in the data.
In 2021-22, there did not appear to be a lot of variation in the impacts experienced by carers depending on the reason for caring. However, people caring for someone due to old age or frailty seemed to be more likely to experience an impact on their health. This may reflect older people caring for their spouses, who might be more prone to health difficulties themselves. The data indicates that people caring for spouses are also more likely to experience impacts on their health.
Support Plans, Needs and Support Provided
The analysis in the following section is based on those carers for whom information was available. Some organisations only provide certain support services, such as short breaks and respite, and do not carry out support plans; while other organisations carry out plans but do not provide support services. Therefore, not all organisations will have information on every section covered in this report.
Adult Carer Support Plans (ACSPs) and Young Carer Statements (YCSs)
Under the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016, all carers have the right to an ACSP or YCS based on their personal outcomes and needs for support. The Care Inspectorate Inquiry into adult carers’ experiences of support, published on 6 December 2022, indicated that although local carer organisations offered carers positive experiences of access to advice and information, signposting, training and peer support; carers were not always aware of their right to an Adult Carer Support Plan.
Some organisations who submitted data for the Carers Census do not carry out ACSPs or YCSs; however, this does not necessarily mean that there has not been a conversation with the carer to talk about their role and what might help them.
Some organisations will have an initial conversation with carers and put support in place, but will use an ACSP or YCS as an escalation tool if the carer’s situation worsens or their needs increase. Others will have a conversation with carers, put support in place and will record the data relevant to the carer but do not call this an ACSP or YCS. As such, the data on ACSPs and YCSs presented here will not fully represent the number of carers who have a support plan.
Of the 42,050 individual carers in the 2021-22 Carers Census, information related to ACSPs and YCSs (including date of offer or request, whether the plan was a review, whether the plan was completed or not and whether or not the plan was incomplete) was present for 66% of records.
Of these records where information was available, the data showed that 55% of carers had a completed ACSP or YCS and 44% were recorded as having an incomplete ACSP or YCS. An incomplete ACSP or YCS means that the plan was offered or requested but not finished. This could be because the plan was declined by the carer, deemed to be not appropriate for the carer’s situation or because the plan was still being put in place by the end of the reporting period (31st March 2022). In 2021-22, 25% of records with an incomplete ACSP or YCS were reported to be due to the plan being declined by the carer and 9% were reported to be because an ACSP or YCS was deemed not appropriate.
It should be noted that some records had both a complete and incomplete ACSP or YCS, which should be taken into consideration when interpreting these figures. This may be due to changes in the carer’s situation. For example, if a carer at first declined to have an ACSP or YCS but then later decided that it may be useful for them.
The figures above include all instances of where there was some information on ACSPs or YCSs available. Based on records where there was information on the date the plan was offered, the data shows that 44% of records with information on ACSPs and YCSs relate to 2021-22.
Carers' Support Needs
Carers can have multiple support needs; including short breaks or respite, counselling or emotional support, or assistance with benefits.
Based on the 16,940 records for which information on carers’ support needs was available in 2021-22 (including 2,730 records for young carers), 68% were recorded as needing advice and information and 62% were recorded as needing short breaks or respite.
The data suggests that support needs vary between adult carers and young carers, as shown in Figure 6. In 2021-22, adult carers were more likely to be recorded as needing training and learning (25% compared to 12% of young carers) whereas young carers were more likely to be recorded as peer or group support (50% compared to 18% of adult carers).
Note: Carers can have multiple support needs, so individual categories will not sum to 100%. Other support needs include recreation, well-being and support for the person being cared for.
The data suggests that carers’ needs seem to vary slightly depending on the reason for cared for person requires care. For instance, people caring for someone with a learning disability appear to be slightly more likely than people caring for other groups to require short breaks or respite. However, these results should be treated with caution due to the complexities involved when a carer cares for more than one person. This is because different caring roles will have their own challenges and people will need different support to help with these, which cannot be separated out in the data.
Support provided (or intending to be provided) to Carers
Carers may be provided with multiple types of support to meet their needs and to help support their caring role. A carer can be provided with support without needing to have an ACSP or YCS in place.
Based on the 31,200 records in 2021-22 for which information on support provided (or intending to be provided) to carers was available, 83% of carers were provided with advice and information and 37% were provided with short breaks or respite.
The data suggests that there were differences in the support provided to adult carers and to young carers, as shown in Figure 7. Young carers were more likely to be provided with short breaks or respite (60% compared to 34% of adult carers) and counselling and emotional support (59% compared to 28% of adult carers). This may reflect the different support needs for young carers. Adult carers were more likely to be provided with advice and information (84% compared to 76% of young carers in 2021-22).
Note: Carers can be provided with more than one form of support, so individual categories will not sum to 100%. Other support provided includes recreation, well-being and support for the person being cared for.
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