Equal partners in care (EPiC) - Caring for unpaid carers

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We all meet and work with carers every day. By carers we mean people who provide unpaid care to another person – they are the family, friends, partners and neighbours of the people you provide services to. Here you will find Equal Partners in Care (EPiC) and associated resources designed to support learning that enables health and social care staff to identify, support and work with carers as equal partners. 

Click on each of the following headings below to take you to the relevant section 

Essentials before you begin

The Carers (Scotland) Act 2016

Why equal partners in care?

EPiC : caring for unpaid carers overview

elearning modules

Equal partners in care (EPiC)
Essentials before you begin
Wellbeing group

Who are unpaid carers?

An unpaid carer is someone who provides unpaid support to a family member, friend or neighbour

They may care for an older person, someone who is disabled, has a long-term illness, mental health problems or is affected by alcohol or drug misuse, or any combination of these.

Unpaid carers also provide support to people at the end of their lives.

Unpaid carers can be any age, from children to older people, from all cultures and all parts of our society.

Some unpaid carers may be disabled or have health and social care needs themselves. Few caring relationships are entirely one way in terms of care giving and care receiving. Many people are involved in mutual caring relationships.

They may be parents, spouses, grandparents, daughters, brothers, same sex partners, friends or neighbours.

YOU might be an unpaid carer now or you might be an unpaid carer in the future. Like other unpaid carers, many health and care staff are juggling caring roles with work.

Caring for Carers - This is a short animation about caring for carers

Who are young carers?

A young carer is a child or young person with a significant role in looking after someone in their family. Any carer under 18 is viewed as a young carer, whether or not they are at school.

Young adult carers are usually understood as carers aged 16 to 25. 

There is recognition in the Guidance to the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 and in many carer services that the 16 to 25 age group is characterised by transitions that may change the caring role and/or the need for support such as transition to further education or work; living away from home; or reducing the caring role/not wanting to be a carer at all.

Young boy

Rationale for carer support

The impact of being an unpaid carer varies. It is unlikely to be ‘all good’ or ‘all bad’ but will depend on the individual, their unique set of circumstances and will vary from month to month, day to day or even hour to hour depending on their role. 


Factors including gender, culture, age, income, life roles, family history and relationships and work status can all impact on the individuals experience of being an unpaid carer.

Prevention is pivotal in supporting unpaid carers and the people that they care for. Intervention and support (including by providing information) at an early stage in an unpaid carer’s journey can promote quality of life, independence and engagement with their community.

Early intervention can prevent deterioration in the caring situation – and sustain relationships.4

Fundamentally, supporting unpaid carers can result in better outcomes for them and for the people they care for and can support more effective use of health and care services.

Below are some quotes from unpaid carers that reflect the impact of caring

It’s huge…sometimes it’s fine but then something will happen, even something that seems really small to other people, and I end up feeling frantic and like I don’t know what I’m doing.

Since being a carer for my partner I’ve learned I have a lot of skills that I didn’t realise I had. I’ve also learned a lot from being a carer that I use in other bits of my life.

I had to give up my job so I could care for my daughter, that was hard because I loved my work and it means we are financially struggling more than we ever have.

Caring for my sister when I was growing up was hard sometimes, but it helped me to know that I wanted to be a physiotherapist when I left school. I’m working as a physio now and I think my experiences with my sister help me in my work everyday.

There’s just no break…it’s constant, it’s having a really bad effect on all our family relationships.

We keep falling out over little things and we never did that before.

Remember today’s carers could be tomorrow’s service users or patients if we don’t support them in their caring role - quote from Local Carers Lead, Feb 2019

Stop for a second and think about how working well with unpaid carers could support both outcomes for them and more effective use of services.

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The Carers (Scotland) Act 2016
Hex Law 4

The Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 came into force on 1 April 2018, introducing new legal duties and a range of provisions to help better identify, assess and support unpaid carers.

The Act  extends and enhances the rights of unpaid carers.

"We want the Carers Act to make a difference to real people, and that’s about what matters to people. It’s about having meaningful and satisfying lives alongside caring. Getting that right is fundamental to building a sustainable health and social care system".

Lindsey Henderson - Lead for Carers, Scottish Government speaking at the Personal Outcomes Network, Oct 2018

The aim of The Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 is to better support unpaid carers on a more consistent basis so that they can continue to care, if they so wish, in good health and to have a life alongside caring.

For young carers, the intention is similar to that for adult carers but also that young carers should have a childhood similar to their non-carer peers.

The Act gives all unpaid carers rights to an adult carer support plan or young carer statement to identify each carer’s personal outcomes and needs for support. This reflects a general preventative approach, which also underpins the duty on local authorities to provide information and advice services to unpaid carers.

Wider policy context

The focus on increased recognition and more effective support for unpaid carers fits with the global agenda of person centred and integrated care, as promoted by the World Health Organisation (2016), which makes frequent references to unpaid carers.2

In Scotland, Realistic Medicine is intended to put people at the centre of decisions about care and support. It encourages staff to find out what matters most to people

to make sure that responses are appropriate. Realistic medicine is intended to include all health and social care staff, as set out by Chief Medical Officer, Catherine Calderwood (2017).3

There are also national health and care standards in Scotland which are based on human rights and outcomes focused approaches. They are DignityPrivacyChoiceSafety,

Realising Potential and Equality and Diversity and they explain what people can expect from any care service they use, and can be found in the resources section.

Why equal partners in care?

Unpaid carers have a unique role in the life of the person they care for. They have valuable knowledge to contribute to the care and support of the person they care for, and any decision will have an impact on them and on their caring role.

Unpaid carers have the right to play an equal and active role in care planning and decisions. This does not mean that all unpaid carers are the same or that the caring is shared equally.

Every unpaid carer does however have the same right to have the support and information they need and to be as involved as they choose to be.

Conversation Duo

It’s important that health and social care practitioners also feel valued as equal partners. This will help create a culture of mutual respect and partnership.

If unpaid carers, the person they care for, and workers from health and social services work together as partners they increase the chances of achieving better outcomes for all involved.

There are always opportunities to identify who the unpaid carer is and in many cases there will be opportunities to:

• recognise, acknowledge and value the role of unpaid carers as partners in care

• involve unpaid carers in planning for the person they care for

• support unpaid carers to manage their caring role

• avoid discrimination and disadvantage related to the caring role

• support the unpaid carer to have a life outside caring.

EPiC : caring for unpaid carers overview
EPiC Logo


Welcome to the Equal Partners in Care – Caring for Unpaid Carers (EPiC) learning resource for health and social care staff. 

Why is this resource for me?

In your job it’s highly likely that you come into direct contact with unpaid carers.

By unpaid carers we mean people who provide unpaid support and care to another person. They are the family, friends, partners, neighbours, and colleagues of the people you offer services to...and the role they play is vital.

If you don’t encounter unpaid carers yourself then you probably support other staff who do.

EPiC is intended for all staff who come into direct contact with carers in their day-to-day jobs. It is also intended for anyone with a workforce education and learning role, and/or managers who support the workforce to improve outcomes for carers and the people they care for.

This resource has been designed with the understanding that different professionals will have varying levels of opportunity to engage with carers in their roles.

What will I find in the resource?

This resource will help you (and the staff or students you support) to better understand your role and responsibilities to support unpaid carers.

You will have the opportunity to explore:

  • who unpaid carers are,
  • why it is important to identify them,
  • the impact of caring on unpaid carers,
  • how to have better conversations and interactions with unpaid carers and
  • resources you can use to direct unpaid carers to support.

At a minimum, the intention is that any member of staff will:

• understand what a carer is and be able to identify unpaid carers and young carers

• understand that every conversation with an unpaid carer can make a difference to them

• know that carer support is available and be able to make links for the unpaid carer.

What is the aim of this resource?

The aim is to make a positive difference and improve outcomes for unpaid carers…and the people they care for.

Promotional items

We have produced some mouse mats and tote bags to promote the use of EPiC. In addition, you will see in the resources section below a leaflet and set of postcards. If you would like some of these or the promotional items to share with colleagues please email nes.carers@nhs.scot

(elearning modules)

elearning modules

To access our Equal Partners in Care learning resources you need to be signed into your Turas account.

There are four modules, which can each be completed as a stand-alone module or as a series of modules. We highly recommend that you complete part 1a and part 1b of Identifying unpaid carers to gain the most from the topic.

On completion of each module you will have the opportunity to gain an Open Badge award which we encourage you to undertake supporting the impact of your learning in your practice.

We hope you enjoy your unpaid carers learning journey!

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