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Carers make a substantial but often unseen contribution to Scottish society and economy. Research has estimated that it would cost Scotland's health and social services over £7.6 billion to replace the care provided by unpaid carers.

  • There are 657,000 unpaid carers in Scotland - more than the total health and social care workforce. It is estimated that 100,000 are young carers who combine their education with caring commitments.
  • 115,000 spend 50 hours or more a week providing care to a family member or friend.
  • Over 250,000 balance paid work with their unpaid caring responsibilities. Typically these are routine and lower skilled jobs which enable them to combine work and caring responsibilities. 
  • One in five carers have to give up their jobs because of the burden of caring.
  • Scotland's ageing population means that it is estimated that 1 million people in Scotland will have a caring role by 2037. 


Barriers Faced

Carers face a number of barriers in being able to enter and then sustain employment. These barriers include:

  • Never worked or no/low qualifications due to their caring responsibilities.
  • Low self-confidence. 
  • Difficulties finding suitable jobs that allow for caring responsibilities.
  • Perceived or actual inflexibility and discrimination from employers and colleagues.
  • Difficulties combining employment and caring responsibilities in terms of the demands that both pose.
  • Isolation and lack of social networks.
  • Carers' own health and wellbeing can be negatively affected by their caring responsibilities. 

For carers who do work, the routine and lower skilled jobs they often hold are lower paid and can put them at risk of poverty. A Princess Royal Trust for Carers survey found that 53% of carers who work earn less than £10,000 a year, while 60% have to spend all their savings to support the person they care for. 89% say that they are financially worse off as a result of caring. 

Policies and Interventions

Caring Together - The Carers Strategy for Scotland 2010-2015 published in July 2010, is a comprehensive strategy covering different aspects of carers' lives and has the vision of ensuring that:

  • Carers are recognised and valued as equal partners in care.
  • Carers are supported and empowered to manage their caring responsibilities with confidence and in good health and to have a life of their own outside of caring.
  • Carers are fully engaged as participants in the planning and development of their own personalised, high-quality, flexible support and are not shoe-horned into unsuitable support. The same principle applies to carers' involvement in the services provided to the people they care for.
  • Carers are not disadvantaged, or discriminated against, by virtue of being a carer.

The strategy's Employment and Skills chapter confirms the importance of carer employment, skills development and lifelong learning, and recognises the important role of carer-friendly and flexible working practices - with actions set out in support of this.

Getting it Right for Young Carers: The Young Carers Strategy for Scotland 2010-2015 focuses on the specific issues faced by young carers and how they can best be supported when balancing the challenges of growing up, being at school, and making the transition from school whilst they continue caring.

In supporting carers towards and into employment, it is important to highlight that carers and young carers bring a wealth of experience, skills and common sense which employers value. For example, they will often have strong skills in relation to:

  • Time management.
  • Multi-tasking.
  • Communication skills - verbal, written and telephone skills.
  • Assertiveness in dealing with professionals.
  • Dealing with crisis, stressful situations and deadlines.
  • Working well with others/team player.
  • Financial planning and managing money.
  • Dealing with paperwork and complex documents.


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