Carers Count: The importance of census data

Carers Count

In 2021 the CIRCLE team secured funds from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)  to conduct Carers Count, a project aiming to encourage unpaid carers to self identify and include their hours of caring in the 2021 census, and also to highlight the importance of understanding and using census data on carers to policymakers and care service providers in the UK, using films and animations.

Since 2001, UK Censuses have included a question on (unpaid) caring: Do you look after, or give any help or support to, anyone because they have long-term physical or mental health conditions or illnesses, or problems related to old age?; and if so, how many hours of caring. Our project has explored the impact of these questions in past Censuses (2001, 2011) and the potential to inform debate and policymaking about care and caring.

To bring our project to life we worked with Ed Cartledge (https://www.sortoffilms.co.uk/), a local film producer, to create two short animations and two talking head films.

In March 2021 we produced the first two films which encouraged unpaid carers to self-identify and include any hours, no matter how few, they spend supporting a loved one in the 2021 census. We worked with carers centres in England and Wales to find unpaid carers who were willing to tell us their caring stories and we got fantastic input from those who were involved. The films were shared far and wide on social media, and are still being used to encourage unpaid carers to recognise their own caring roles.

In June 2021 we produced two more films which highlighted the importance of using census data for carers centres and academics. In the talking heads film, we spoke to experts in the field about how they use census data, and why this information is so crucial when making decisions that could improve the lives of unpaid carers.

The CIRCLE team will be using the outcomes of the 2021 census to update our understanding of unpaid carers. If you are involved in providing care services, at local or national level, we can help inform your decisions- get in touch with us.

We are grateful for the support we received to conduct our Census engagement work. It allowed us to connect with the public on an incredibly important topic that will affect us all at some point in our lives. We worked closely with a diverse group of unpaid carers who shared their experiences and brought the topic to life, allowing us to increase the recognition and identification among unpaid carers, and improve the robustness of data collected in the Census 2021. We collaborated with existing and new policy and practice and academic partnerships, to share the important role the Census plays in service planning and provision, and our understanding of inequalities associated with unpaid care. It increased CIRCLE visibility with local carers centres across England and Wales, and opened up opportunities to work with the ONS as the 2021 Census data becomes available. We are excited to continue this important research and our engagement activities.