What are the effects of unmet need for social care on unpaid carers? Risk factors, consequences and mediators

Nicola Brimblecombe In progress  


Current social care practice seeks to prevent negative impacts of caring on young people and improve their lives. Care Act 2014 and Children and Families Act 2014 provisions include an assessment of whether caring has an impact on young people’s wellbeing, personal development, physical and mental health, and ability to participate fully and fulfil their aspirations in education and employment. Assessments must consider the option of the young carer’s needs for support being met by providing services to the person they care for, especially in order to prevent the young person from undertaking ‘excessive or inappropriate care and support responsibilities’.

Efforts to reduce the burden on young carers have mostly focused on those aged under 16. There is less information about those aged 16–25.


This study aimed to find out the impacts of caring on young people, including economic impacts, and whether and in what ways services provided for an individual with care needs can also support young people providing care, in particular their education, employment and health. It focussed on young people in England aged 16–25, caring for an adult.


The study used three main methods:

  • Analysis of data from three waves of the UK Household Longitudinal Study (2013 to 2017) and Health Survey for England. It compared employment, earnings and health impacts for 561 young adult carers and 6,342 non-carers aged 16–25 at two time points 12 months apart;
  • An online and paper survey completed by 188 young adult carers;
  • In-depth interviews with 14 young people who had also taken part in the survey to explore in further depth the relationship between social care service receipt for adults with care needs and outcomes for young adult carers seen in the national data and survey. Interviewees were selected to reflect a range of service receipt circumstances.


  • Young people (16 to 25) who provided care were found to be: less likely to be in employment, have lower earnings from paid employment, and have poorer mental and physical health than equivalent young people who did not provide care
  • Costs to the state were an estimated £1 billion a year. Individual young carers also experienced financial costs
  • The association between receipt of care for the person with care needs and the impacts of providing care on young people’s lives was mixed
  • Services could have negative as well as positive effects and, in many cases, were not in sufficient amount or the right type to prevent young people from carrying out levels of care that impacted on their employment, education and health
  • Aspects of services identified as helpful/less helpful included timeliness; access; involving the young person and taking into account their needs; relationship with practitioners; and continuity of care.