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Caring Costs

Emily Holzhausen OBE

New research published by Carers UK for Carers Rights Day (24 Nov 2022) shows vast numbers of people new to caring, 12,000 a day, prompting a rethink of how we identify unpaid carers.

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Caring Costs, our theme for Carers Rights Day

Today (24 November 2022) marks Carers Rights Day, set up by Carers UK many years ago, to encourage health, social care organisations, employers and anyone else who wants to take part to identify unpaid carers, ensure that they know their rights and get the support they need.

This year we’ve chosen the theme of Caring Costs to highlight the fact that caring can cost your health, wellbeing, work, finances and relationships but that getting good information and advice about your rights can put you more in control, can help you to make decisions, as well as get support where it’s available. And where support doesn’t exist, Carers UK will continue to campaign to ensure that it does.

Most people still don’t identify themselves as unpaid carers. Even amongst the staggering 13,000 people who completed our State of Caring 2022 survey and who were providing much more substantial care to disabled, ill or older adults, 51% still took over a year to identify themselves as unpaid carers. Many missed out on vital support as a result.

Vast numbers new to caring every year

To coincide with Carers Rights Day, we’re publishing new ground-breaking research, Cycles of Caring: Transitions in and out of unpaid care by Dr Maria Petrillo, Professor Matthew Bennett, Deputy Director at the Centre for Care and Professor Gwilym Pryce from the University of Sheffield which shows the vast number of people who become unpaid carers – 4.3 million per year. This is far higher than previously thought, and works out at 84,000 per week or a huge 12,000 per day. An average of 4 million leave caring every year, too.

Rethinking carer identification in health and social care

With such dynamic change in caring, the work to identify unpaid carers is never done. It means that systems need to be really robust in identifying carers and making sure that data is also dynamic, refreshed and updated when caring changes and people move out of caring.

Health and social care could transform carers’ experiences by systematically identifying them, recording this on the care records of the person needing care (carers’ top ask) and on their own patient record (carers’ second ask) as well as making sure that they get the right support. Our recent State of Caring 2022 survey found that half of carers were not given the information, advice and support to care safely and well. Similarly, they were not treated as partners in care when they want to be. Carers tell us that this has to change and that not identifying them creates stress, challenges in caring, juggling work and with relationships. You really see a difference in people’s health and wellbeing and quality of life when they are treated as partners in care and get the recognition and support they need.

Role of employers supporting employees who are unpaid carers

There’s a key role for all employers, large or small, too. With the research finding that 1.9 million people in paid employment will start caring in any given year, it’s something that needs to be on every employer’s agenda. Whilst women have a 50:50 chance of providing care by the time they are aged 46 and men by 57, 11 years later, anyone can become an unpaid carer at any time which is why we need an all age approach.

We can all take part

If you are looking to do more to support Carers Rights Day, look at what your employer offers to colleagues who are unpaid carers in terms of flexible working, time off for caring and signposting to support. Who do you know who is an unpaid carer who might need information and advice? How does your organisation reach help people to identify themselves as unpaid carers? Taking time to think could make the link to support that an unpaid carers needs.

With any step change in identification of carers, we’d help achieve their top priority – helping to look after their health and wellbeing and their second overall priority, recognition, which they both need and deserve.


Emily leads on Carers UK policy and media work and was responsible for Carers UK’s a dvice services for 15 years. She has secured numerous rights for carers and is currently a Co-Chair of the Care and Support Alliance. She co-chaired the Carers Advisory Group for the Government’s Adult Social Care COVID-19 Taskforce. Emily was awarded an OBE in 2015 for services to carers.