The latest census data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reveals that there are 120,000 young carers in the UK between the ages of five and 17. There are fears that the real figure could be much higher, with a serious impact on the education, health, and social support networks of young people.
Furthermore, one in five 55-59 year olds in some areas of England spend at least part of their time devoted to unpaid care. There is also a strong geographical divide, with the highest levels of unpaid carers in the north-west of England and the Midlands, and the lowest levels in the more affluent areas of the South East and London.
Responding to the census data on unpaid carers, Carers Trust’s CEO, Kirsty McHugh, said: “Today’s census data highlights the significant poverty penalty experienced by the nation’s unpaid carers, with far more people caring for friends and family in areas of higher deprivation.”
She added: “Worryingly this divide has increased since the 2011 census, suggesting a failure by government to provide proper support for unpaid carers and the local carer services that help them. The gender divide is also failing to close, with more women and older people providing care from home.”
Overall, the data showed that there are around 4.7 million unpaid carers in England, and 310,000 in Wales. This amounts to 8.9% and 10.5% of the total population respectively. There are also a disproportionate number of female carers.
Caroline Abrahams, charity director of Age UK, said: “Many admit to being exhausted and worried about how long they can continue, and the consequences if they become seriously ill themselves. They are all too often being left to shoulder an enormous amount of responsibility and hard work, without any prospect of a real break.”
She added: “As public funding for care completely fails to keep up with the increased demand for support from growing numbers of older and disabled people, we worry that very old people are having to fill the gap. They can’t do it all on their own, they need more help, and we shouldn’t take advantage of their determination to do right by those they love.”
The data is taken from the census that was completed by over 24 million households across England and Wales on March 21 2021. The census is carried out every ten years, and is regarded as one of the most accurate and reliable data sources in the UK.
However, Kirsty McHugh of Carers UK raised fears that the latest figures do not paint an accurate picture of the true numbers of people who carry out unpaid care. She pointed out that many people who provide unpaid care for a loved one may not even realise that they do so because it feels like an automatic part of their lives.
McHugh called for greater support for Carers through the delivery of a National Carers’ Strategy.
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