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Who are carers?

NHS definition: A carer is anyone, including children and adults who look after a family member, partner or friend who needs help because of their illness, frailty, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction and cannot cope without their support. The care they give is unpaid.

An adult carer is over 18 and helps to look after a relative, neighbour or friend with a disability, illness, mental health condition, or drug or alcohol problem. Examples of an adult carer include someone over 18 in full time employment supporting an elderly parent or a retired adult caring for their wife.

You’re a young carer if you’re under 18 and help to look after a relative with a disability, illness, mental health condition, or drug or alcohol problem.

A young adult carer is 16-25 and will have particular considerations as they transition to adulthood, like going to university or moving out of home, and the implications for care at home.

A parent carer is aged over 18 and provides care to a child with a special educational need or disability (SEND) for whom they have parental responsibility.

Caring roles, responsibilities and experiences vary considerably and there is no minimum set hours or responsibilities that determine whether someone is a carer. The NHS does set eligibility criteria for its vaccination programme, which needs to be referenced.

At least 8% of the patient population in West Sussex are likely to be carers (Census 2021 identified 72,815 carers in West Sussex). Many carers go unidentified and unsupported, so the number of carers is likely to be much higher.

In Sussex, unpaid carers have been identified as a ‘Plus’ population in our CORE20PLUS5 programme, because they experience health inequalities. There is increasing evidence that caring should be considered a social determinant of health (Public Health England, Caring as a Social Determinant of Health, 2021). The value of care West Sussex carers provide is £2.18bn per year. This equates to £6m every day.

Census infographic