Unpaid caring in Northern Ireland  

Across Northern Ireland, hundreds of thousands of people care unpaid for an ill, older or disabled family member, or friend. The amount and type of support that carers provide varies considerably. It can range from a few hours a week, such as picking up prescriptions and preparing meals, to providing emotional or personal care, day and night, 365 days a year.

Number of carers

In their polling, 15% of respondents in Northern Ireland said they were already providing care before the coronavirus outbreak (212,000 people) and a further 7% said they have started caring since the coronavirus outbreak (98,000 people). Using population projections, this suggests there are currently as many as 310,000 unpaid carers in Northern Ireland.

Profile of carers

  • 58% of unpaid carers are women and 42% are men.
  • Over half (53%) of unpaid carers are in paid work. 36% are in fulltime work, and 17% are in part-time work.
  • 20% are aged over 65, 21% are 55-64, 22% are 44-54, 17% are 35-44, 11% are 25-34, 8% are 18-24.

 Challenges faced by unpaid carers

Adults in Northern Ireland were asked about the challenges facing unpaid carers. The emotional, mental and physical health impacts of caring were highlighted as the top challenges. The responses were:

  • managing the stress and responsibility (73%)
  • the negative impacts on their physical and mental health (70%)
  • not being able to take time away from caring (70%)
  • the impact it has on other personal relationships (eg with family, friends, partners etc.) (59%) 
  • the negative impact it has on their ability to do paid work (59%) 
  • the financial impact of the additional care costs (54%) 
  • not having anyone to talk to about the challenges of caring (49%)

Both unpaid carers and adults without caring responsibilities 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.

Read the full report here