Carers in the 2021 Census – Where are the missing Carers?

The figures on disability and unpaid care were published on 19th January, and to the surprise of carer organisations across England and Wales, show a decrease in the number of people identifying themselves as carers.

The CEO of Carers Trust, Kirsty McHugh commented: 

"The census data on unpaid carers released today provides a complex picture but what comes through loud and clear is that the proportion of unpaid carers providing 20 hours’ care a week or more has increased noticeably. This resonates with what we are consistently hearing about many unpaid carers having to dedicate ever more time to caring for their sick and disabled relatives, not least due to increased pressures on the NHS and the collapse of social care services.

"We need to be careful when considering the overall reported decline in the number of unpaid carers. As the ONS rightly points out, people were responding to the census in the middle of a pandemic. We know many unpaid carers were unable to visit the homes of those they were caring for, so may not have identified as unpaid carers. Others may recently have stopped providing care for elderly relatives who had died of COVID-19.

"What is clear is that the Government must acknowledge its obligation to the census’s estimated 5 million unpaid carers, many of whom are struggling to cope with increased caring hours as a result of the fallout of a social care crisis that is not of their making. They need immediate Government support now in the form of more funded respite breaks, expanded Government support for the local carer organisations supporting them and a national strategy for unpaid carers. Carers Trust stands ready to support such a strategy by providing a comprehensive picture of the enormous challenges that millions of unpaid carers and local carer organisations are facing and the solutions that we know can make all the difference."

Carole Cumino, WAC’s CEO said: “The team at Worcestershire Association of Carers is working through the local figures and will consider whether we need to change our priorities based on the figures.  The overall decrease in the number of carers was a big surprise, and we’re working with partners to try and work out the reasons for this – a change in the wording of the census questions and the fact that the Census forms were completed during a COVID lockdown period could be factors.  The decrease certainly isn’t reflected in the number of people contacting WAC, and we’re talking to more people who have complex and increasing caring roles.”

More Information:

Carers UK Press Release here

Guardian Article here