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Unpaid or informal carers are people who look after or give any help or support to family members, friends, neighbours or others because of long-term physical or mental ill-health or disability or problems related to old age. 

Carers are often time poor, making it difficult for them to access services, find that their quality of life deteriorates, have less time to socialise and pursue activities that they enjoy.  Loneliness and involuntary social isolation are more common among carers.  In 2015, approximately 8 out of 10 carers nationally reported feeling lonely or being socially isolated.   57% reported that they have lost touch with friends and family members, and 49% have experienced additional stress in their relationship with their partner as a result of the demands of their caring role.

The most comprehensive source of information about carers is the ten-yearly census. Some carers receive support from Herefordshire social services, and their views are collected in a statutory survey every two years.

According to the 2021 census, the number of residents aged 5 and over who provided unpaid care was less than 10 years ago. This may partly reflect a change to the question wording between 2011 and 2021. It may also reflect an impact of the coronavirus pandemic on people's circumstances or behaviours, such as household mixing rules.

Nearly 17,000 people aged 5 and over in Herefordshire were providing at least an hour of unpaid care a week. This represented around 9% of the population; the same percentage as England & Wales.

The highest proportion of residents providing unpaid care were found in in the ‘Burghill’ area of Hereford rural surrounds, the ‘Greater Mathon’ and ‘The Slip’ areas of Ledbury rural (all with 12% of residents).  The highest proportions of residents not providing any unpaid care were found in Hereford City Centre and the ‘Lesser Credenhill’ area (both with 94% of residents).

The 2023 Herefordshire Community Wellbeing Survey found that 21% of Herefordshire adults provided some level of unpaid care.  It also found that carers were more likely to say that their anxiety levels were higher than a year ago. 

The Personal Social Services Carers Survey, which uses a different definition of 'carer' to the census, estimated that in 2021-22 27.7% of adult carers (aged 18 or over) in Herefordshire had as much social contact as they would like. The proportion has not changed significantly over the last five year. However, there has been a steady decline year on year across England as a whole, with a more notable fall from 32.5% in 2018-19 to 28.0% in 2021-22. This is most likely related to increased levels of loneliness following a year of lockdowns, social distancing and restrictions on travel and gathering - see the Office of National Statistics (ONS) Opinions and Lifestyle Survey to map loneliness during the COVID-19 pandemic.

An overarching measure of the quality of life of carers, based on outcomes identified through research by the Personal Social Services Research Unit, combines individual responses to six questions measuring different outcomes related to overall quality of life.  In 2021-22, the carer-reported quality of life score in Herefordshire was 6.5; which is lower than for England (7.9). Herefordshire has consistently had one of the lowest scores, out of all councils in England, over the last five years. However, there is a relatively large degree of uncertainty around the latest score due to a relatively low response rate to the survey.