National Care Service - adult social care: equality evidence review

Overview of evidence related to equality in adult social care in Scotland. It is part of a collection of contextual evidence papers, setting out key sources of information about social care and related areas in Scotland.

5. Sex

The Equality Act 2010 defines the protected characteristic of sex as being a man or a woman[59]. This section brings together data and evidence on social care and sex. Evidence is presented here in relation to the experiences of people who access social care, unpaid carers, and social care workers.

5.1 People who access social care

Public Health Scotland’s Insights in Social Care publication reports that around three-fifths (61%) of people being supported by social care services in 2020/21 were female. This is consistent with previous years. There were more females than males[60] in the older age groups, but for people aged 18 to 64 the gender split was more even, with slightly more males than females. However, for children and young people aged 0 to 17 receiving social care support, 68% were male. For people living as long stay care home residents, there are roughly equal males and females in the 65-74 age group, but in the 85 and over age group, there are three times as many females than males[61].

Research by the ALLIANCE and Self Directed Support Scotland (SDSS), which explored people's experience of Self-directed Support and social care in Scotland. found some variation in men and women’s experiences. For participants in this study, women had generally received less information about Self-directed Support options and budgets than men, and were less content with the quality of information that they received[62].

Data from England shows that older women are at three times greater risk of having an unmet need for help with one or more activities of daily living (ADLs)[63] than younger men[64].

5.2 Unpaid carers

The Scotland’s Carers report in 2015 found that 59% of people providing unpaid care were women, and 41% were men. This varied by age group; working age women were much more likely to be carers than working age men, but in the over 75s age group, men were more likely to be carers than women[65]. More recently, the Scottish Health Survey found that overall, women were more likely than men to report providing regular unpaid care (23% and 14% respectively)[66].

Social Security Scotland report that, in November 2021, around 69% of Carer’s Allowance clients were female and 31% were male[67].

Most people will be unpaid carers at some point in their life[68]. However, research carried out by Carers UK found that women were more likely to become unpaid carers at an earlier stage in their life than men. This study also found that women were more likely to be providing a higher number of hours of unpaid care than men. These are important findings because they have wider implications for gender inequality, affecting women’s mental and physical wellbeing[69], participation in paid employment and earnings over the lifetime[70].

The Young Carers research report found that a majority of young carers in Scotland were female, and highlighted evidence about gendered differences in the types of care work undertaken by young people. This report also found that young female carers reported poorer wellbeing compared to young male carers, particularly in the 16-24 year old age group[71].

The Carers Census provides data about unpaid carers who are being supported by local carers services in Scotland. In 2021, the majority of working age carers (76%) being supported by local services were female. Furthermore, around 7 in 10 people being supported by local services were female[72]. The reasons for this are not known, however it may be the case that women are more likely to seek support from carers services than men.

5.3 Social care workers

The vast majority of the social care workforce are women and in lower paid positions[73]. In 2020, 80% of adult social care staff were female and 17% were male[74] [75]. In their 2019 report on ‘Fair Work in Scotland’s Social Care Sector’, the Fair Work Convention proposed that the undervaluing of care work is associated with perceptions of care work as being ‘women’s work’, and with the prevalence of women employed in the sector. This report also highlighted the contribution of the social care sector to the gender pay gap in Scotland, which disadvantages women[76].



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