Researchers seek stories to give a voice to Scotland’s 800,000 unpaid carers

University researchers are seeking to gather stories from Scotland’s 800,000-strong community of unpaid carers to help give them a voice and inform government policy on the development of a National Care Service.

The aim is to promote the visibility of carers, give them a voice around the critical role of caring, and to develop a diverse audience for these voices and stories allowing them to be amplified and impactful. This initiative comes at a time when the Scottish Government continues to develop and consult on the proposed ‘National Care Service’.

The Scotland Cares project is being funded by the Royal Society of Edinburgh Young Academy Scotland (YAS) to address three grand challenges it has set its membership of ‘Enabling a more equitable, diverse and just Scottish Society’, ‘Enabling a respectful and inclusive societal exchange’ and ‘Enabling people in Scotland to thrive sustainably’.

The project brings together four universities – Strathclyde, Glasgow, Edinburgh Napier and West of Scotland – with Carers Scotland and the Health and Social Care Alliance.

Human spirit

Dr Kieren Egan, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Strathclyde, said: “As our population ages and our health and social care models evolve, the carer voice has never been more important. There are approximately 800,000 unpaid carers in Scotland – that is family, friends and neighbours – looking after an individual living with a mental or physical illness, disability or frailty.

“While caring represents some of the most remarkable elements of the human spirit, the innate compulsion to look after others, it is synonymous for many with a wide array of challenges such as stress, uncertainty, loneliness, declining personal health, and a loss of identity.

What seems certain is that as our society continues to age, and our healthcare models continue to move health out of hospitals and into the community, those who care for others will take on a greater breadth and depth of roles in delivering care in the years ahead.

Statistics collected by Carers UK estimate that 72% of those who care report suffering poor mental health and 61% suffering physical ill health due to their caring role.

The project has been designed with two key stages: a short survey to gather insights from carers across Scotland about their achievements, favourite places, and the future hopes of carers. Carers will also be asked to highlight one thing which would improve their situation.

The next phase of work will involve group storytelling sessions through several in-person events across the country, with experts in storytelling bringing to life the achievements, hopes and challenges of carers in a relatable and dynamic way. The stories will be collated in a booklet and told through online and in-person exhibitions.

The survey can be accessed at: