There is growing evidence pointing to the adverse impact on the health, future employment opportunities and social and leisure activities of those providing unpaid care, particularly in young carers.
The definition used here for a ‘young carer’ includes children and young people under 18-years-old (aged 5 to 17), who provided unpaid care for family members, friends, neighbours or others because of long-term physical or mental ill-health, disability, or problems relating to old age. The inclusion of an unpaid care question in the 2001 (645.8 Kb Pdf) and 2011 Census (2.02 Mb Pdf) forms highlights the importance of unpaid care as a social policy issue, and enables the contribution unpaid carers make to meeting care needs to be quantified.
The extent of unpaid care provision by young people
In 2011, there were 177,918 young unpaid carers (5 to 17-years-old) in England and Wales. Of these, 54% were girls and 46% were boys. Within England, the North West had the highest proportion of young carers providing unpaid care at 2.3%, whereas the South East had the lowest proportion at 1.9% (Table 1). Overall, Wales had the highest proportion of young carers providing unpaid care, at 2.6% (Table 1).
An increase in the number of unpaid carers aged 5 to 17 was observed in all regions between 2001 and 2011 (Table 1). In England and Wales combined, the number of young unpaid carers increased by almost 19% during this period. The South East had the largest increase of 41.2%, which equates to an additional 7,282 young unpaid carers, while the smallest increase was seen in the North East at just 1.7%, an additional 135 young unpaid carers.
Table 1: Proportion, numbers and percentage increases of unpaid carers aged 5 to 17-years-old, between 2001 and 2011 in England and Wales
|Country/Region||Proportion providing unpaid care||Number of young unpaid carers||Percentage increase between 2001 and 2011|
|2001 (%)||2011 (%)||2001||2011|
|England and Wales||1.7||2.1||149,929||177,918||18.7|
|Yorkshire and The Humber||1.7||2.0||14,615||15,733||7.6|
|East of England||1.5||2.0||13,100||17,497||33.6|
Table source: Office for National Statistics
In 2011, girls aged 5 to 17 provided more unpaid care than boys, in all English regions and Wales (Figure 1).
Figure 1: Percentage of unpaid care provided by 5 to 17-year-olds: by sex in English regions and Wales, 2011
The majority of young carers contributed between 1 and 19 hours of unpaid care per week (Figure 2), which is in line with other carer age groups, as reported in the recently published ONS analysis paper on unpaid carers. As the level of unpaid care increased, the number of carers decreased. In England and Wales, 142,768 (80.2%) young people provided 1 to 19 hours of care, 19,422 (10.9%) provided 20 to 49 hours and 15,728 (8.8%) provided 50 or more hours of unpaid care per week.
Figure 2: Provision of unpaid care per week for 5 to 17-year-olds in England and Wales, 2011
Impact of caring on young carers’ general health
The 2011 Census (2.02 Mb Pdf) showed the percentage of people with ‘Not Good’ general health was generally higher among those providing unpaid care compared with those not providing it, and that this percentage rose with greater amounts of unpaid care provided. This indicates that care provision has a detrimental impact on general health.
A similar pattern was observed in unpaid carers aged 5 to 17 (Figure 3). London had the highest proportion of young people providing 50 hours or more care per week in ‘Not Good’ health, at 17.1%; the South West had the lowest proportion at 13.2%. Young unpaid carers in English regions and Wales who were providing care for 50 or more hours a week were between 4.4 (in Wales) and 5.9 times (in the South East) more likely than those providing no care to report their general health as ‘Not Good’.
Figure 3: Percentage of young unpaid carers with ‘Not Good’ general health: by extent of unpaid care provision per week, and the ratio of those providing 50 or more hours per week to those providing no unpaid care in English regions and Wales, 2011
Further information on how the provision of unpaid care varied by age, sex, general health status and economic activity is available in a report on 'The gender gap in unpaid care provision: is there an impact on health and economic position?'.
1. The 2011 Census forms (2.02 Mb Pdf) asked whether respondents provided unpaid care to family members, friends, neighbours or others because of long-term physical or mental ill health or disability, or problems related to old age and for how many hours per week
2. ‘Young unpaid carers’ refers to those aged 5 to 17-years-old providing some level of unpaid care
3. Children aged 0 to 4-years-old did not provide any unpaid care
4. ‘Some care’ is the combination of 1-19 hours, 20-49 hours and 50 hours or more categories
5. ‘Not Good’ health was derived from those who answered fair, bad or very bad to the general health question in the 2011 Census
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