Guest Blog: Carers Week 2024 put carers on the map – but now what?

Becky Duff, Carers Trust

Becky Duff,
Director for Scotland,
Carers Trust,

Like the team here at Carers Trust, you may have spent 10th-17th June celebrating Carers Week. This annual awareness campaign aims to amplify the visibility and voice of carers and their experiences. Up and down the country unpaid carer organisations held events, including high teas, conferences and theatre trips to celebrate the unpaid carers they support. And-along with our Carers Week partners-we were busy in Scottish Parliament, securing Ministerial and MSP support for unpaid carers through our reception, roundtable and photocall with party leaders.

We were delighted to co-host - along with our partners at Fife Young Carers - our “Putting Young Carers on the Map” event, where we welcomed the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Jenny Gilruth MSP and other decision makers to hear directly from the ‘mouths of babes’, the young carers themselves.

But now that the pledge boards are safely packed away for another year I’m left asking “what has really changed for Scotland’s 800 000 plus unpaid carers because of Carers Week?” Yes, we raised awareness, we ‘put carers on the map’, but now what?

We know that unpaid carers are more likely to live in poverty. In our Carers Week Partnership report “No Choice but to Care” we found that 51% of current or former unpaid carers in Scotland said that caring had a negative impact on their finances and savings. [1] And while unjust, this isn’t surprising. After all, it costs to care. Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s research “The Caring Penalty” - published last year - found that unpaid carers pay an annual ‘caring penalty’ of nearly £5,000 per year, increasing to nearly £8,000 per year, after six years of caring. [2]

This-coupled with the fact that unpaid carers are less likely to be in full time work (if in work at all) means that unpaid carer poverty feels almost inevitable. “No Choice but to Care” report highlights that 49% of unpaid carers who had given up work or reduced their working hours had seen their income reduce by over £1,000 per month.

This sits in sharp contrast to the other stat often quoted when we talk about unpaid carers…the almost £14billion of ‘unpaid’ care they provide each and every year. Despite the immense monetary value unpaid carers add to our economy (and keep our health and social care system from crumbling), as a society we don’t put our money where our mouth is, and keep unpaid carers out of poverty.

Carer’s Allowance remains the lowest benefit of its kind. At a meagre £81.90 per week (2024/25 rates) and eligibility criteria that means that many unpaid carers do not receive this benefit, it doesn’t come close to meeting the cost of caring. We have an opportunity in Scotland to make a meaningful impact on the financial health of unpaid carers as this benefit transfers to Carer’s Support Payment, but as yet it feels like tinkering rather than reform. A rose (more accurately a thorn perhaps) by any other name comes to mind…

So post Carers Week, how do we work together to make sure there is a legacy beyond a good photo? We follow up on started conversations and hold those in power (and those with the purse strings) to account. Thanks to the Scotland that Cares campaign we will soon have a National Outcome on care which will hopefully keep care high on the agenda.

We keep listening to and amplifying the voice of unpaid carers. We don’t settle for reform that doesn’t actually result in any meaningful change. And we keep going, until there are no unpaid carers living in poverty.

Carers Week is important because it gets people talking, but shining a light on carers is only useful if it leads to illuminating change to the support provided for unpaid carers. If nothing changes, all the smiling photos on social media and the speeches given mean nothing. Caring communities needs to be more than just catchy alliteration. We need to invest in systemic reform, putting carers not only on the map but at the heart of our decisions on spending, and make unpaid carers all of our business. After all, most of us will fulfil that caring role at some point in our lives. We simply can’t go it alone without unpaid carers, so why should they go it alone without us?


[1] Carers UK analysis using ONS population data and Yougov polling.

[2] Joseph Rowntree Foundation, The caring penalty, 2023

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