Mnemonic: is_carer
Applicability: Person
Type: Standard variable


An unpaid carer may look after, give help or support to anyone who has long-term physical or mental ill-health conditions, illness or problems related to old age.

This does not include any activities as part of paid employment.

This help can be within or outside of the carer's household.


Total number of categories: 7

Code Name
1 Provides no unpaid care
2 Provides 9 hours or less unpaid care a week
3 Provides 10 to 19 hours unpaid care a week
4 Provides 20 to 34 hours unpaid care a week
5 Provides 35 to 49 hours unpaid care a week
6 Provides 50 or more hours unpaid care a week
-8 Does not apply*

*Students and schoolchildren living away during term-time, and children aged 4 years and under.

View all provision of unpaid care classifications.

Quality information

We did not ask people aged under five years whether they provided unpaid care, so this variable counts usual residents aged five years and over.

Read more in our Health, disability and unpaid care quality information for Census 2021 methodology.

Question asked

Do you look after, or give any help or support to, anyone because they have long-term physical or mental health conditions or illnesses, or problems related to old age?

  • No
  • Yes, 9 hours a week or less
  • Yes, 10 to 19 hours a week
  • Yes, 20 to 34 hours a week
  • Yes, 35 to 49 hours a week
  • Yes, 50 or more hours a week

In Census 2021 the list of options people could choose from had two extra options to break down the number of hours per week someone provides care.


Read about how we developed and tested the questions for Census 2021.

Why we ask the question

The answer helps communities by giving local authorities a better understanding of carer needs in their area. Information about people providing unpaid care is an important sign of care needs and can affect how public bodies provide health and social care services in their area.

The answer also helps the NHS and social services to meet their legal responsibilities. These include identifying carers and providing them with services and advice.

This information gives an idea of how social care services could be affected if unpaid carers were not available. Public bodies use the information, with other measures of health, to identify local inequalities and needs.

The answer helps decide what funding the government gives to local authorities through the carer's grant.

The census first asked this question in 2001.

Comparability with the 2011 Census

Broadly comparable

If you use this variable to compare with the same one used in the 2011 Census, you can combine the categories “less than 9 hours” with “10 to 19 hours” and “20 to 34 hours” with “35 to 49 hours”.

The combination of the categories “less than 9 hours” and “10 to 19 hours” means that this does not exactly match the Census 2011 variable which had a “1 to 19 hours” category. It can still be used when comparing with data from the 2011 Census although there is a difference of one hour of care.

What does broadly comparable mean?

A variable that is broadly comparable means that it can be generally compared with the same variable used in the 2011 Census. However, changes may have been made to the question or options that people could choose from or how write-in answers are classified.

England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland comparisons

Highly comparable

What does highly comparable mean?

A variable that is highly comparable means that it can be directly compared with the variable from Scotland and Northern Ireland. The questions and options that people could choose from may be slightly different, for example the order of the options may be swapped around, but the data collected is the same.

Find out more about variables produced for Census 2021 in Northern Ireland and Census 2022 in Scotland.

Census 2021 data that uses this variable

We use variables from Census 2021 data to show findings in different ways.

You can:

Alternatively, you can also create a custom dataset.

Other datasets that use this variable