A blog entry by Javiera Leemhius,
PhD Student

In May 2021 I had the opportunity to complete an internship within the social care division at the Office for National Statistics (ONS). I worked as part of a team with my colleagues Sarah and Bry on a project that aimed to study the social impacts of the pandemic on unpaid carers in Britain. We used data from the Opinions and Lifestyle Survey (OPN) collected between 31 March and 25 April 2021. The results of the descriptive analysis contributed towards a publication released earlier this month.

Javiera Leemhuis

Javiera Leemhuis

The following are some of the main findings of the analysis (quoted directly from the publication):

  • More women (57%) provided unpaid care than men (43%); however, there were no significant differences between men and women in the number of hours, or type of care provided.
  • A higher percentage of unpaid carers than non-carers reported that they were disabled (32% compared with 23%), with unpaid carers aged 16 to 34 years and 45 to 54 years more likely to be disabled than non- carers in the same age groups.
  • A larger proportion of unpaid carers than non-carers were worried about the effects that the coronavirus pandemic was having on their life (63% compared with 56%).
  • More than half of unpaid carers (57%) had received their first vaccine, and a fifth (20%) had received both doses. Fewer non-carers had received their first dose (44%) or had received both doses (16%), however, on average unpaid carers were older (52 years) than non-carers (47 years).
  • There were no statistically significant differences between the percentage of unpaid carers who worked compared with non-carers, however, unpaid carers were more likely to work part-time (31%) than non-carers (25%).


The internship was a really positive experience for me as a first year PhD student. It gave me the opportunity to work with the latest data on unpaid carers in the context of the pandemic: the hands-on experience of working with data related to my PhD has been an insightful exercise. It was rewarding to have been involved in the project and seen it evolve from beginning to end. The internship was also an excellent way to meet and engage with the social care team at the ONS. It was interesting to learn about how a data provider like the ONS works. And although the internship was completed online, the experience felt very social. It was extremely motivating to work as part of a team after a year of little interaction with peers. The internship has certainly been the highlight of this semester.

Javiera Leemhuis

Javiera Leemhuis is a PhD student at the University of Sheffield within the ESRC Data Analytics and Society Centre for Doctoral Training. Her studentship, on ‘Care and caring in geographical context’, was developed in collaboration with the ONS. The guidance and financial support ONS makes to support this studentship is gratefully acknowledged.

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