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. 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. There is a need for further research to establish the true extent of unpaid care being provided in the county, as other surveys have produced widely differing estimates, particularly with regard to lower levels of care (between one and 19 hours per week).
Carers in Herefordshire
The number of residents providing unpaid care in the county is increasing both in terms of overall numbers and as a proportion of the population.
In 2011 nearly 21 thousand people in Herefordshire were providing at least an hour of unpaid care a week. This represented around 11% of the population – just slightly higher than England & Wales (around 10%).
The highest proportion of residents providing unpaid care were found in The Slip (17% of residents), Greater Weobley and Greater Mathon (both 16% of residents) areas of the county. The highest proportions of residents not providing any unpaid care were found in Hereford City Centre (94% of residents) and the Putson area of Hereford (93% of residents).
There are implications for the amount of unpaid care provided. Ultimately more care can mean more help and independence, however there is no guarantee that those people receiving the help are getting all the support that they need. The demands and restrictions for those providing care also need to be considered.
Data from the 2011 Census for areas within Herefordshire can be downloaded from the resource box.
Locally, GP surgeries are being encouraged to identify carers and document carer status on patient medical records in order to ensure that carers receive appropriate support from primary care services. However, evidence suggests that carers are still not being routinely identified and recorded as having caring responsibilities by their GP surgeries.
Carers are 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.
In Herefordshire, less than a quarter (23.2%) of adult carers reported in 2016/17 having as much social contact as they would like, significantly fewer than in the West Midlands region (36.9%) and England (35.5%).
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 2014/15, the carer-reported quality of life score in Herefordshire was 7.6; an increase from 7.4 in 2012/13 and similar to the West Midland Region (7.8), but lower than for England (7.9).