The number of carers in England and Wales increased from 5.2 million in 2001 to 5.8 million in 2011, although, as a percentage of the population, the number of people who identify as carers has remained constant at 10%.
There has been a slight increase in the proportion of carers in England and Wales who provide more than 20 hours of care a week – up from 32% in 2001 to 37% in 2011.
The census data is broken down by region, showing variation around England and Wales. For example, only 8% of residents in London provided unpaid care, compared to the national average of 10%.
The census provides a range of information about the population, broken down by region and local authority, including data relating to age, religion, ethnic group and the number of people who have a long-term health problem or disability.
Heléna Herklots, chief executive of Carers UK, said: “The Census 2011 results show that caring is a growing issue as our population changes and ages. An increase of 11% in carer numbers is a really significant rise. We are going to see many more families struggling and becoming physically, emotionally and financially overwhelmed by caring as their health suffers, as they fall out of employment and as their relationships are pushed to breaking point because they cannot get the right support.”
Lack of support
A report published by Carers Trust this week shows that there continues to be a lack of transparency and accountability from primary care trusts (PCTs) over the provision of carer breaks and how much they are spending on support for carers.
From a random sample of 50 PCTs, only 12 had fully met requirements, such as publishing budgets and plans showing how they are providing carers’ breaks.
From April 2013, Care Commissioning Groups (CCGs) will be responsible for planning, commissioning and delivering services but will not have to publicise the steps they are taking to support carers.
Thea Stein, chief executive of Carers Trust, said: “Changes to the way that those planning, delivering and commissioning care are held to account may present risks for sustained investment by the NHS in supporting carers.
“Our research shows that certain areas have consistently failed to meet their duties to support carers and our fear is that, with a lack of clarity of how CCGs accountability, that this will continue.”
Carers Trust has launched a series of recommendations to ensure that carers’ needs are taken into account by CCGs:
- CCGs should work with local authorities, carers and local carers’ organisations to continue to develop support for carers, refresh local carers strategies and ensure that carers benefit from the funding made available to the NHS up until 2015.
- CCGs should work in partnership with local authorities, carers and local services to identify clear and accessible ways to present information on how they are supporting carers and allocating funding for carers’ services and carers’ breaks.
- The NHS Commissioning Board should ensure that CCGs are working towards improvements in support for carers. The Commissioning Board should build on the commitments to supporting carers in the NHS Mandate and give clear guidance on the ways in which the outcomes and statements relating to carers can be achieved.