What is a carer?

A carer is someone who provides support to family or friends who could not manage without this help.

This could be caring for a relative, partner or friend who is ill, frail, disabled or has mental ill-health or substance misuse problems. All the care they give is unpaid. 

A carer could be a spouse, partner, parent, sibling, child, friend or any other relation. Anybody from any background and of any age can be a carer and each carer’s experience is unique to their own circumstances.

Just as the reasons why someone becomes a carer vary greatly, the variety of tasks that a carer takes on can be broad. They can include practical tasks such as cooking, cleaning, washing up, ironing, paying bills, financial management and engaging appropriate services; personal care such as bathing, dressing, lifting, administering medication and collecting prescriptions; and emotional support such as listening, advocacy, problem-solving, motivating and companionship.

Taking on a caring role can mean facing a life of poverty, isolation, frustration, ill health and depression. Many carers go unidentified until many years into their caring role and the majority struggle alone unaware that help is available to them. Families affected by illness or disability are facing tough times at the moment and it has never been more important that they know their rights.

Facing their own additional challenges are ethnic minority carers. Short films on this page show carers talking about their day-to-day lives in their community languages. They are in Mandarin, Cantonese, Punjabi and Urdu.

Page last updated 21.09.23