Factsheet: Carers

This factsheet is available in a downloadable PDF here. 

Table of Contents

What is an Unpaid Carer?
Being an Unpaid Carer
Carer’s Need Assessment
Support for Unpaid Carers

What is an Unpaid Carer?

An unpaid carer is a relative, partner, friend or neighbour who supports a person needing help because of disability, physical or mental health problems, frailty or addiction.

An unpaid carer ensures the needs of that person are met, for example:

  • A person may need reassured that they are not alone so you pop in every day to see how they are
  • A person may need help to purchase food so you do the weekly shopping for them
  • A person may need transport to see the doctor so you take them to appointments
  • A person may get confused with money so you help by ensuring the bills are paid

Along with the practical tasks, providing encouragement, supervision, reassurance and emotional support are an important part of caring for someone.

Being an Unpaid Carer

Providing any level of care to somebody else can have an impact on your own life; not spending as much time with other family members or friends, not socialising as much because your tired and stressed, may be even reducing your working hours to ensure the person you care for is safe and well.

As a carer you have a right to make your needs known. For example, a need to:

  • Have time to relax and switch off
  • Work, in order to be financially sound
  • Keep well and healthy
  • Have a social life and see friends/family
  • Have appropriate information and support 


Carer’s Needs Assessment

A Carer’s Needs Assessment is your chance to tell professionals about what you do and what support you require in order to continue your caring role whilst also ensuring your needs are being addressed. It also gives you the opportunity to say whether you want to continue providing unpaid care; a very difficult decision that some people have to make.

You have a right to be informed of a Carer’s Needs Assessment by any health or social work professional; and they have a duty to complete a Carer’s Needs Assessment with you. Download an information leaflet on carer’s needs assessments here.

If you would like an assessment or need to talk to someone about this please contact:

Social Work Service on 0131 271 3900 or email [email protected]

 Support for Unpaid Carers

Support that unpaid carers sometimes need can be things like:

  • Information about the condition of the person they care for
  • Information about benefits and finances
  • Regular breaks from the caring situation through respite or day care
  • Regular breaks made possible by increasing the support for the person they care for
  • Arranging for someone else to do tasks such as washing and dressing the person

Not everybody understands what it is like caring for someone and not everybody understands mental health problems. If you care for someone who has a mental health problem you may find that there are few people you can talk to.

VOCAL Midlothian

In Midlothian there is an organisation called VOCAL who are there to provide information, support and a listening ear to people providing unpaid care.

They also have access to:

Details of these can be found on their website and there are links to leaflets at the end of this factsheet.

To contact VOCAL Midlothian please phone 0131 663 6869 or email: [email protected] 

Related Services

Below are links to Services in the Edspace database that may be of interest:

External websites related to Carers

These web sites may be useful. Please note that we are not responsible for external sites; if you find any broken links or inappropriate content please report it to the site administrators using the feedback page.

  • Carers Scotland
    Carers Scotland are part of Carers UK, and support carers by:
    • giving expert advice, information and support
    • connecting carers so no-one has to care alone
    • campaigning together for lasting change
    • innovating to find new ways to reach and support carers.
  • Support in mind Scotland
    Support in Mind Scotland works to improve the wellbeing and quality of life of people affected by serious mental illness. This includes those who are family members, carers and supporters.
  • Royal College of Psychiatrists
    Royal College of Psychiatrists website. Provides a range of mental health information, including a range of factsheets on topics such as: Anxiety and Phobias, Bereavement, Depression, Drugs and Alcohol, Post-traumatic stress, Stress, Schizophrenia.
  • Careers Scotland
    ...provides a starting point for anyone looking for careers information, advice or guidance.

Phonelines Related to Carers

  • Breathing Space

    0800 83 85 87

    A free, confidential phone line you can call when you're feeling down. They also have an excellent website which has loads of information and a self-help toolkit.

  • The Samaritans

    08457 90 90 90

    The Samaritans will not try to give you advice, judge you or tell you what to do, they will just listen and support you. They are there for anyone, especially those who are suicidal or in crisis.

  • Out of Hours Psychiatric Emergency Team

    0131 537 6000

    This service is available 12 midnight 8am, Mon-Sun. In an emergency only, contact the Psychiatric Emergency Team (PET) at the Royal Edinburgh Hospital. They will do an initial assessment by phone. They will also assess you in person at the hospital or come out to your home if they think it is needed.

  • Emergency Social Work Service (Out of Hours)

    0800 731 6969

    Calls will be handled by experienced ESWS staff who will prioritise cases to be dealt with as an emergency. Their main priorities are to provide statutory assessments for child protection, access to a mental health officer and urgent community care assessments.

  • Emergency Social Work Service (Office Hours)

    0131 554 4301

    Emergency social work support during office hours.

  • Carers Welfare Rights Helpline

    0800 161 3839

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