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England’s unpaid care force: 1.3 million providing more than 20 hours unpaid care per week

18 December 2013 | Tags: Health Survey for England, Social Care

1.3 million people in England are spending more than 20 hours a week doing unpaid care, the Health Survey for England has revealed.

While well over a million provide more than half a traditional working week in unpaid care, the survey also shows that 16.5 per cent of people in England, over seven million, provide some kind of unpaid help or support.

The findings from the survey undertaken by NatCen Social Research and UCL were published today by the Health and Social Care Information Centre. The report shows that millions of people provide unpaid care that ranges from shopping and doing housework to helping people bath, wash and get in and out of bed.

The survey also explores the health impact on unpaid carers, revealing that half of women (50%) and around a third of men (37%) report negative effects on their own health. A third of women (32%) say that caring causes stress, a quarter (24%) say it affects their sleep and a fifth (19%) say it causes feelings of depression. 

The social care gap

In spite of this army of unpaid carers, many older people go without much needed social care.

The Health Survey for England found that although 25 per cent of people over 65 said they need help getting up and down the stairs only 6 per cent reported receiving any help over the past month.

This gap between need and care provision was also apparent on basic needs such as going to the toilet and bathing. Of the five percent of over 65s who report that they need help using the toilet, only two fifths, around 180,000 people, say that they had help in the last month.

Rachel Craig, Director of the Health Survey for England at NatCen Social Research said “England has a substantial unpaid care force made up of millions of people providing essential care to friends and relatives. Yet, it is still not enough. There are hundreds of thousands of older people whose most basic social care needs go unmet."

Dr Jennifer Mindell, who leads the UCL Health Survey for England team, added: “As social services budgets fall, this gap is likely to rise, with yet more people relying on relatives and neighbours. The needs of these carers must not be overlooked”.

Along with today’s report, the HSCIC has also launched a new HSE website in partnership with NatCen. The new site presents the HSE data by theme area and is intended to be helpful in understanding the data. This can be found at

Leigh Marshall, Head of Press and Public Affairs, NatCen: 0207 549 8506/07828 031 850 or Naomi Joyner, Press Officer, NatCen: 0207 549 9550 or 07734960069


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  1. About NatCen: NatCen Social Research is an independent, not for profit organisation. We believe that social research has the power to make life better. By really understanding the complexity of people’s lives and what they think about the issues that affect them, we give the public a powerful and influential role in shaping decisions and services that can make a difference to everyone.
  2. About UCL (University College London): Founded in 1826, UCL was the first English university established after Oxford and Cambridge, the first to admit students regardless of race, class, religion or gender and the first to provide systematic teaching of law, architecture and medicine. We are among the world's top universities, as reflected by our performance in a range of international rankings and tables. According to the Thomson Scientific Citation Index, UCL is the second most highly cited European university and the 15th most highly cited in the world. UCL has nearly 27,000 students from 150 countries and more than 9,000 employees, of whom one third are from outside the UK. The university is based in Bloomsbury in the heart of London, but also has two international campuses – UCL Australia and UCL Qatar. Our annual income is more than £800 million.
  3. About HSCIC: The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) was established on April 1 2013 as an Executive Non Departmental Public Body (ENDPB). It is England’s trusted data source, delivering high quality information and IT systems to drive better patient services, care and outcomes. Its work includes publishing more than 220 statistical publications annually; providing a range of specialist data services; managing informatics projects and programmes and developing and assuring national systems against appropriate contractual, clinical safety and information standards.