Income and Poverty

Informal care and poverty in the UK

Commissioned by: Joseph Rowntree Foundation

  • Published 24th May 2016
  • Authors: Hannah Aldridge, , Ceri Hughes,
  • Category: Income and Poverty

Informal carers provide care on an unpaid basis, often to family members. Some will provide a few hours of care each week, perhaps doing the shopping for someone who finds it difficult to get out of the house; others will provide round the clock care and companionship. Formal care, in contrast, is provided in return for payment.

This research uses data from the Family Resources Survey (from 2011/12 to 2013/14) to describe the situation of informal carers in the UK, and how being a carer has implications for employment, income and poverty.

Key findings

  • 5.3 million people in the UK routinely provide unpaid care to someone with a disability or health condition. Most carers (72%) provide care to immediate family, whether a parent (40%), partner (18%), son or daughter (14%). The most common arrangement was for carers to provide support to parents who were not living with them (33%).
  • 1 in 10 adults provide unpaid care, rising to 20% of women and 13% of men aged between 55 and 64
  • The poverty rate among working-age carers increases with the number of hours they care for, particularly after 20 hours per week.
  • 2.6 million working-age carers provide less than 20 hours and have a lower poverty rate than the average non-carer (of 21%). 1.4 million working-age adults provide at least 20 hours of care and have a poverty rate of 37%.
  • Despite the challenges of combining care with employment, 400,000 people are doing a full working week alongside long hours of care (20 hours or more)
  • Working-age people who provide care for 20 hours or more each week tend to have lower qualification levels. Overall, 70% of those who cared for 20 hours or more had no or low qualifications compared with around half of low intensity carers (52%) or non-carers (48%).