Around one in seven UK parents who belonged to one of the vulnerable groups regularly received cooked meals from an adult child not living with them in the period 2017 to 2018.
Over the same period, nearly three in ten UK parents aged 70 years and over with a self-defined disability (28.9%) got their shopping regularly from an adult child not living with them.
People who were Equality Act Disabled were most likely to report feeling lonely “often or always” in England in 2018 to 2019 at 14.1%.
In 2018 to 2019, those aged 65 years and over in England were most likely to feel “very comfortable” asking a neighbour to collect essentials for them if they were ill (40.4%).
“This report looks at how some people have supported one another before the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, including providing meals and shopping and caring for children. It highlights how challenging the times we now find ourselves in could become for some people. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) has introduced new survey questions to monitor how we as a society are responding to the situation, including identifying where challenges are arising. We will be reporting on these regularly.”
Eleanor Rees, Head of Social Well-being Analysis Team, Office for National Statistics
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This release considers the ways in which vulnerable groups normally receive support from their family, friends and wider community, to understand how a period of isolation might impact those in need of extra support.
We have focussed on two of the three groups identified by the government that may be considered vulnerable. These are older adults and those with a self-defined disability or who are Equality Act Disabled (for more information on the definitions of disability and vulnerability, see the Glossary).
At a UK level, parents were more likely to receive help from an adult child not living with them if they were in any of the vulnerable groups we analysed, when compared with the population aged 16 years and over as a whole. Parents within each of these vulnerable groups were more likely to receive help from their adult children shopping for them than the national average aged 16 years and over. This is most likely to be the case for those aged 70 years and over with a self-defined disability, where nearly 3 in 10 (28.9%) said they regularly received help with shopping from an adult child.
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Parents within these vulnerable groups were also more likely to have an adult child providing or cooking meals for them than the national average aged 16 years and over. This was most likely among those aged 70 years and over who also had a self-defined disability, at 17.8%.
Figure 1: Grandparents with a self-defined disability were the vulnerable group most likely to look after their grandchildren, although this is still lower than the general grandparent population
Percentage of parents who regularly receive or give selected practical help from or to a child aged 16 years or over not living with them, UK, 2017 to 2018
For more information on how “Self-defined disabled” is defined, see the Glossary.
Over 4 in 10 grandparents (41.6%) in the UK provided regular or frequent childcare for their adult children not living with them. Grandparents within the vulnerable groups were less likely to regularly look after their grandchildren not living with them, with 25.9% of grandparents aged 70 years and over and 37.0% of grandparents with a self-defined disability providing this care. Note that this excludes any care provided to or received from adult children who live in the same household as their parents.
As well as being the vulnerable group most likely to be supporting younger family members outside the household, adults aged 16 years and over with a self-defined disability were also more likely to themselves be giving special help to at least one other sick, disabled, or elderly person living or not living with them at 21.1%.
It is not only our families who provide practical support to us during times of need: this could also be provided within your community. In England, those aged 65 years and over were most likely to feel “very comfortable” with their neighbours collecting a few shopping essentials for them while they are ill at home.
People aged 65 years and over were almost twice as likely as the general population to say they felt “very comfortable” with neighbours collecting a few shopping essentials for them (40.4% compared with 22.0%).
Looking at the wider population, almost one in four adults aged 16 years and over (24.9%) said they would feel “very uncomfortable” asking for this help from their neighbours. This proportion was higher among those who were Equality Act Disabled (28.7%).
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With everyone being asked to stay at home as much as possible – and those most at risk of severe illness from the coronavirus (COVID-19) encouraged to avoid all face-to-face contact for 12 weeks – many people are reliant on social support to help with feelings of loneliness.
Loneliness is more likely to affect people who are Equality Act Disabled than the general population. In the period 2018 to 2019, 14.1% of the Equality Act Disabled reported feeling lonely “often/ always”, compared with 6.1% of the general population aged 16 years and over.
Staying at home and avoiding face-to-face contact has a huge impact on social interaction, particularly among certain groups who rely on talking to neighbours as a form of social contact.
Those aged 70 years and over (and those aged 70 years and over with a self-defined disability) in the UK were the most likely to agree or strongly agree that they regularly stop and talk to their neighbours, at 78.0% (and 74.8% respectively).
Among those aged 70 years and over, stopping and talking to their neighbours was higher in Wales (85.0%) and Scotland (83.3%) than in England (76.9%).
However, while UK analysis showed that people in vulnerable groups were more likely to talk to their neighbours regularly, data for England show that people who were Equality Act Disabled were less likely than the general population to feel they had people who would be there for them. Also, for people aged 65 years and over, there was no significant difference from the adult population.
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In Understanding Society: The UK Household Longitudinal Study, a “self-defined disability” has been defined using the variable, health. This question asks: “Do you have any long-standing physical or mental impairment, illness or disability? By ‘long-standing’ I mean anything that has troubled you over a period of at least 12 months or that is likely to trouble you over a period of at least 12 months.” This question is able to be answered by proxy. This question is not the Government Statistical Service (GSS) harmonised principle for assessing long-lasting health conditions or illness.
Equality Act Disabled
In the Community Life Survey (England only), “Equality Act Disabled” has been defined using the variable Zdill, which is a combination of dill and dill2. These are: “Do you have any physical or mental health conditions or illnesses lasting or expected to last for 12 months or more?” and “Does your condition or illness/do any of your conditions or illnesses reduce your ability to carry out day-to-day activities?”. This is the GSS harmonised question for measuring disability.
We have identified as vulnerable those the government has highlighted as being more at risk. These are individuals who are aged 70 years or over, have an underlying health condition, or who are pregnant. For more information, see Measuring the data.Back to table of contents
We have aimed for data in this release to be at the UK level. Where this has not been possible, data for England have been used and we have highlighted where this is the case.
UK-level data have been taken from Understanding Society: The UK Household Longitudinal Study.
England-level data has been sourced from Community Life Survey by Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
Data from these two sources cannot be compared directly because of differences in geography and methodology.
Definition of vulnerable
However, we were unable to select those aged 70 years and over from the Community Life Survey and so we have analysed those aged 65 years and over. This means we have included those younger than the government's classification.
We were unable to accurately identify those respondents who were pregnant at the time of the interview, so we were unable to include them in this analysis.
Assessment of differences
The measures analysed in this release are sourced from self-reported survey data. These sources use samples of the total measured population to produce estimations. Given this, measures for given groups have only been assessed as higher or lower than the comparison group if the difference between groups is statistically significant using 95% confidence intervals. If a difference is said to be statistically significant, it is unlikely that it could have occurred by chance.
Social capital in the devolved administrations
The UK’s devolved administrations also collect and publish data on social capital.
Scotland’s social capital index is a national indicator that forms part of Scotland’s National Performance Framework. It monitors aggregate changes in levels of social capital since 2013 through the four domains of social networks, community cohesion, community empowerment and social participation. More information can be found on the National Performance Framework website.
In Wales, measures of loneliness, volunteering and feeling able to influence decisions affecting the local area are included within the national indicators to demonstrate progress towards Wales’ seven well-being goals. Further data relating to social capital at a Wales level are collected through the National Survey for Wales.
Northern Ireland publishes data on social capital from its Continuous Household Survey. This includes data on perceptions of the local area, trust in people in the area and action taken to solve problems affecting local people.Back to table of contents
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