Caring: A Family Affair
Caring: A Family Affair

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Caring: A Family Affair

2.4.3 Labelling

The term ‘informal carer’ is a label. It was coined to describe people who take on unpaid responsibility for the welfare of another person. It is a term which has meaning only when the public world of care provision comes into contact with the private world of the family where caring is a day-to-day, unremarked-upon activity, like reminding a young child to clean her teeth. Labelling yourself as an informal carer requires a major shift in the way you see yourself, a shift neither Arthur nor Lynne has made.

Activity 5: Are you an informal carer?

Timing: 0 hours 5 minutes

Have you ever had ‘extra responsibilities’ for someone who cannot perform the tasks of daily living unaided, because of illness or disability? If so, did you call yourself an informal carer?


Perhaps you already saw yourself as a carer. Possibly you are now more likely to identify yourself as a carer than before you began to study this subject!

‘Carer’ is a word coined by professionals. It is a term that many ordinary people who fit the definition, like Lynne, do not apply to themselves. As Jill Pitkeathly, Director of the Carers National Association, put it:

Most of Great Britain's six million carers do not know that they are carers – ‘I'm not a carer, I'm a wife, a mother, a son’.

Pitkeathly, quoted in Burke and Signo, 1996, p. 24

It is sometimes quite hard to draw the line between what someone does as a member of a family and what constitutes being a carer. The task of recognising family carers has become more important as the importance of the job they do has been recognised. Carers are entitled to have their needs taken into account when decisions are made about what sort of extra help families need in caring for someone who is disabled or frail. Once they are identified, carers can be asked to take responsibility for someone who needs care. Carers can claim certain benefits like invalid care allowance, too. But to label yourself an informal carer means taking on a new identity.


Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to university level study, find out more about the types of qualifications we offer, including our entry level Access courses and Certificates.

Not ready for University study then browse over 900 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus