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Covid-19 pandemic: 4.5 million become unpaid carers in a matter of weeks

08 June 2020
  • 4.5 million additional people caring for older, disabled or seriously ill relatives or friends since the Covid-19 pandemic
  • Unpaid carers and those not caring just as worried about stress and responsibility of providing care
  • UK public demands better deal for unpaid carers
  • Carers Week charities call on Government to recognise unpaid carers’ efforts and rebuild country’s care and support services

New figures released for Carers Week (8th – 14th June 2020) show an estimated 4.5 million people in the UK have become unpaid carers as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is on top of the 9.1 million unpaid carers who were already caring before the outbreak, bringing the total to 13.6 million.

2.7 million women (59%) and 1.8 million men (41%) have started caring for relatives who are older, disabled or living with a physical or mental illness.

Typically, they will have been supporting loved ones from afar, helping with food shopping, collecting medicine, managing finances and providing reassurance and emotional support during the pandemic.

Some will have taken on intense caring roles, helping with tasks such as personal care, moving around the home, administering medication and preparing meals.

2.8 million people (62%) who have started caring since the outbreak are also juggling paid work alongside their caring responsibilities, highlighting the need for working carers to be supported as they return to offices and work sites.

The six charities supporting Carers Week - Carers UK, Age UK, Carers Trust, Motor Neurone Disease Association, Oxfam GB and Rethink Mental Illness – are calling on the UK Government to recognise and raise awareness of the role unpaid carers are playing during the pandemic and ensure they are supported through it, and beyond.

Both unpaid carers (71%) and adults without caring responsibilities (70%) said managing the stress and responsibility of being an unpaid carer was/ would be the top challenge when caring. Families are under a huge amount of pressure managing their caring roles and are worried about how they will cope in the weeks and months ahead.

On behalf of the charities supporting Carers Week, Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said:

“Recognising the contribution of unpaid carers to our society and properly supporting them has never been more important than during this pandemic. An additional 4.5 million people are caring for sick, older or disabled loved ones – that’s the NHS workforce three times over. It demonstrates the scale of the care being provided behind closed doors, mostly hidden from view.

“Unpaid carers are the pillars of our health and social care systems. Yet many say they feel invisible and ignored. There are thousands caring round the clock without the practical support they would normally rely on to take a break, while others face increased costs accessing food and care products.

“The Government must not take unpaid carers for granted in this crisis. It must ensure their physical and mental health is looked after and it is imperative that, moving out of the pandemic, the Government rebuilds our care system so that carers are supported and families have the services they need to live better lives.”

Polling of more than 4,000 members of the UK general public over 18 shows unpaid carers have become more visible within society since the pandemic began. There is a majority consensus for unpaid carers to receive more support from the Government than they do currently.

  • Nearly half (48%) of the public who have never cared said they are more aware of unpaid carers than before the outbreak.
  • More than two thirds (69%) of the public do not think that unpaid carers have been supported by the Government during the crisis.
  • Three quarters (75%) thought the Government should increase support for unpaid carers: such as better financial support as well as investment in care and support services so that carers can take a break.

Read the full report here.

The six Carers Week charities are calling on Government to urgently deliver a plan for social care reform and set out long term investment in care and support services. This would give unpaid carers the opportunity to take breaks from their caring role, and stay in paid work if they want to. The charities want to see an urgent rise in Carer's Allowance – currently just £67.25 a week - and a one-off coronavirus supplement, in recognition of the vital role unpaid carers have played in the pandemic and the significant costs associated with caring.

The headline supporter of Carers Week 2020 is British Gas, who will be hosting a virtual Care for a Cuppa session with its employees with caring responsibilities, and Nutricia also supporting.

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Media contact

For media enquiries, please contact Carers UK who are handling media queries for Carers Week:

020 7378 4937 (daytime)

07580 130090/ 07941 273 108 (out of hours) This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Notes to Editors

About the research

This research is based on polling carried out by YouGov plc in May 2020.

Number of carers

The number of carers is based on YouGov Polling and ONS 2019 population estimates. The rise in number of carers was extrapolated from polling carried out by YouGov plc in May 2020 in a survey of 4,557 UK adults. Taking 17% of the adult population who say they currently give unpaid support to someone and did this before the coronavirus outbreak, and the further 9% who say they have started giving unpaid support to someone since the coronavirus outbreak.

Applying it to 2019 population estimates of those aged 18 and over for each nation in the UK.

About Carers Week 2020

Carers Week takes place from 8-14 June 2020 across the UK. The theme is Making Caring Visible.

Carers Week, established by Carers UK 26 years ago, is an annual awareness campaign which takes place recognise the vital contribution made by the UK’s 6.5 million carers. It is also a time of intensive local activity with hundreds of virtual events planned for carers across the UK. Website:

Twitter: @CarersWeek #carersweek Facebook:

What is a carer?

A carer is someone who provides unpaid care and support to a family member or friend who has a disability, illness, mental health condition or who needs extra help as they grow older.

The Centrica and Carers UK partnership

British Gas is the headline supporter of Carers Week 2020.

Carers UK and Centrica, the parent company of British Gas, are in a strategic partnership, building on a 15-year relationship which has helped Centrica develop leading policies to support employees who are carers. This includes providing paid care leave and a thriving UK carers’ employee network. Together we want to create a world where every carer feels recognized, valued and supported. That means sharing useful information, raising awareness and finding new ways to care for our loved ones in their homes. We hope to make a lasting difference.

To mark Carers Week 2020, Centrica’s UK employees will be invited to a virtual Carer for a Cuppa – with Centrica carers sharing their stories of caring during lockdown and reminding colleagues of the support available to them through their award winning carers policies.

About Nutricia

Nutricia is also supporting Carers Week 2020. Nutricia is the UK’s largest provider of specialist medical nutrition products and services. Nutricia believes in the power of nutrition to make a positive difference to health. Nutricia provide a wide range of products and services that meet the needs of patients and healthcare professionals alike. For example, through the Nutricia Homeward service medical nutrition products, tube feeding systems are delivered and nursing care given directly to nearly 30,000 patients across the UK.

To ensure that patients have access to the right nutritional care when they need it the most, Nutricia work closely and collaboratively with a variety of organisations and healthcare professionals.

Carers UK is working in partnership with Nutricia to help improve understanding about nutrition and care amongst carers. They provide support to carers though information resources, training, social media days and website information. For more information on Nutricia visit

Carers Week

Carers Week 2020 headline supporter:


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Carers Week is also supported by:






These organisations have joined together to make Carers Week happen in 2020:

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    • CT - Main Logo - RGB
    • Carers UK new logo
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    • OGB logo green RGB
    • RethinkMentalIllness MasterLogo-transparent


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