Becoming a carer
Last updated: 16 September 2020


An unpaid carer is anyone looking after a family member, friend or neighbour who needs help. They might have an illness, disability, physical or mental health problem, or addiction.

A carer does not need to be living with the person they care for. Anybody can become a carer at any time in their life. Someone can be a carer for more than one person at a time. Carers can be any age, from young children to older people.

A young carer usually looks after a parent or a sibling and is:

  • under 18 years old
  • or 18 years old and still at school

Many people do not recognise themselves as carers. You do not have to be related to, or live with, the person to be a carer.

What carers do

There are many ways you might care for someone else, which include:

  • practical tasks – like cooking, housework and shopping
  • physical support – like lifting, helping someone on stairs or with physiotherapy
  • personal care – like washing, dressing and helping with toileting needs
  • managing the household budget and collecting benefits and prescriptions
  • giving medication
  • emotional support
  • making sure the rights of the person you care for are being met

This could take up some or all of your time and involve:

  • visiting a relative who lives far away once a month
  • arranging hospital appointments for someone
  • dropping in daily to a nearby disabled friend to give them a meal and company
  • moving in with a relative to help them get better after an operation
  • being there to provide 24 hour constant care for a partner

You're not considered a carer if the care being provided is part of a contract of employment or through voluntary work.

Your rights as a carer

The Carers' charter explains what your rights are under the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016.