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


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 latest Scotland's Carers - Update Release that the number of unpaid carers living in Scotland is around 700,000 to 800,000.

The Carers (Scotland) Act 2016, which 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 introduced the right to an Adult Carer Support Plan or Young Carer Statement based on each carer’s desired personal outcomes and needs for support. These are available to everyone providing (or intending to provide) unpaid care regardless of whether they are doing so on a substantial and regular basis.

This report presents an overview of the results from the Carers Census data collection covering the financial year 2021-22. 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 but the data for this year shows that there have been improvements made since the last Carers Census.

The results presented here have been published as ‘Experimental Statistics’, which is an Official Statistics designation used for new statistics that are still being developed.

Effect of the Covid-19 pandemic

The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic have been particularly acute in the area of social care. As highlighted in the recent Care Inspectorate Inquiry into adult carers' experiences of support, demand for support from unpaid carers increased during the pandemic as a greater number sought support at a time when 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 unpaid 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 support.

Note on Data Quality

The Carers Census is a relatively new data collection and required many organisations to implement new systems to collect and record the required data. Data from this year shows that there have been some improvements; around 20% more returns were received this year compared to last year and more of the variables were completed. Some organisations will not have the information to complete all of the variables as they might only provide certain support services but not carry out support plans, or they may be commissioned to carry out support plans but not to provide support services.

Some organisations have been unable to return information on all the carers they support due to differences in data recording. For instance, some organisations are only able to provide information on carers with a support plan in place but will have also supported other carers whose information was not recorded in the same way. There were also some areas where a return was received from either social work or third sector but not from both. As such, the figures reported here will be an undercount of the true number of carers being supported by local services.

The figures presented here will also not be reflective of the true number of Adult Carer Support Plans (ACSPs) and Young Carer Statements (YCSs) or the support which carers receive under the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016. This is partly due to differences in data recording, but also due to differences in the way support plans are implemented. Some areas will only use an Adult Carer Support Plan or Young Carer Statement as an escalation if the carer’s situation worsens. Others will have conversations with the carer about their role and needs and put support in place, but will not record the data as an ACSP or YCS.

These issues should be taken into consideration when interpreting the results in this report.

As unpaid carers can sometimes be supported by more than one local service, it is possible for information on the same carer to be submitted by multiple organisations. To ensure that carers are not being double counted in the final results, the figures presented in this report refer only to records that have been de-duplicated. The de-duplication process is outlined in Annex 1.

All figures presented in this report are rounded and refer only to carers identified in the Carers Census rather than all unpaid carers living in Scotland. Therefore, statements such as ‘x% of carers were reported to have experienced impacts on their health’ refer only to carers reported on within the Carers Census rather than all unpaid carers.

Any reference to the total caring population will be stated as ‘reported in the Scotland’s Carers report’ or similar. The Scotland's Carers report summarised data from a number of sources, including the 2011 national Census, the Scottish Health Survey and academic research, in order to provide an overall picture of all unpaid carers living in Scotland. 

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 are available in the supporting documents.



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