New data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), released as part of the Census 2021, reveals that unpaid carers are providing increasing levels of care for sick and elderly family members.
According to the latest (ONS) data, the proportion of people who provided 20 to 49 hours of unpaid care a week increased from 1.5% in 2011 to 1.9% in 2021.
The proportion of people who provided 50 or more hours of unpaid care a week has also increased slightly, from 2.7% in 2011 to 2.8% in 2021.
The data also shows that a larger number of people provided any amount of unpaid care in Wales (10.5%) than in England (8.9%) in 2021.
Moreover, a larger proportion of people in Wales provided 50 or more hours of unpaid care a week (3.6%, compared with 2.7% in England).
The proportion of people in England and Wales providing 19 or less hours of unpaid care a week decreased from 7.2% in 2011 to 4.4% in 2021.
There are an estimated 5 million people in England and Wales providing any amount of unpaid care for loved-ones. This includes children as young as five.
According to the figures, the overall proportion of people providing any amount of unpaid care in 2021 decreased from 11.4% to 9%.
Responding to the figures, Carers Trust CEO Kirsty McHugh said: “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.”