Who Cares For The Carers? Secondary and Vicarious Trauma

The British Psychological Society have published advice for reducing the likelihood of secondary trauma.

Exposure to distressing material – such as traumatising conversations, images and written or auditory testimony – occurs in the work of many people. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in this type of work being undertaken in the home.

This guidance document recommends a step by step approach for organisations whose employees are at risk of vicarious trauma while working from home during the Covid-19 Pandemic. This is based on the following 5 Rs:

  • Recognise
  • Review
  • Respond
  • Refresh
  • Respect

Using the 5 Rs will help employers to fulfil their duty of care, enabling them to recognise, review and respond to risks for individual employees, make changes or improvements, and ensure that respect underpins their response.

Click here to read more.

Key facts:

  • The most recent Census 2021 puts the estimated number of unpaid carers at 5 million in England and Wales. This, together with ONS Census data for Scotland and Northern Ireland, suggests that the number of unpaid carers across the UK is 5.7 million.
  • This means that around 9% of people are providing unpaid care. However, Carers UK research in 2022 estimates the number of unpaid carers could be as high as 10.6 million (Carers UK, Carers Week 2022 research report).
  • 4.7% of the population in England and Wales are providing 20 hours or more of care a week.
  • Over the period 2010-2020, every year, 4.3 million people became unpaid carers – 12,000 people a day (Petrillo and Bennett, 2022).
  • 59% of unpaid carers are women (Census 2021). Women are more likely to become carers and to provide more hours of unpaid care than men. More women than men provide high intensity care at ages when they would expect to be in paid work (Petrillo and Bennett, 2022)
  • One in seven people in the workplace in the UK are juggling work and care (Carers UK, Juggling Work and Care, 2019).
  • Between 2010-2020, people aged 46-65 were the largest age group to become unpaid carers. 41% of people who became unpaid carers were in this age group (Petrillo and Bennett, 2022).

Impact of caring on health:

  • Caring can have a significant impact on health and wellbeing. 60% of carers report a long-term health condition or disability compared to 50% non-carers (Carers UK analysis of GP Patient Survey 2021).
  • Over a quarter of carers (29%) feel lonely often or always (Carers UK, State of Caring 2022).


Lori Goossen – Vicarious Trauma – YouTube

A Trauma Informed Practice Learning Event run by Teeswide Safeguarding Adults Board.


Inform Secondary Trauma And Compassion Fatigue (tsab.org.uk)

A comprehensive guide based on research, to support managers and practitioners, full of information and ideas to use in practice.


Vicarious trauma: signs and strategies for coping (bma.org.uk)

How to cope with the aftermath of traumatic incidents and spot the signs of trauma in those who have been involved in caring for others.


Homepage – Carers Trust

Carers Trust works to transform the lives of unpaid carers. It partners with its network of local carer organisations to provide funding and support, deliver innovative and evidence-based programmes and raise awareness and influence policy.​ Carers Trust’s vision is that unpaid carers are heard and valued, with access to support, advice and resources to enable them to live fulfilled lives.


Portsmouth Carers Service

Portsmouth Carers Service provides support for carers (unpaid/informal) who care for someone living in postcodes PO1-PO6. We aim to offer a one-stop-shop for people looking after a family member, friend or neighbour and are continually working to improve our service and identify more carers.


Carers: help and support – Citizens Advice

You can get help and support if you’re responsible for looking after someone who has a disability, is getting old or has become ill. This can range from practical help to make day-to-day life easier to benefits like Carer’s Allowance.


UK | Carers UK

Looking after someone can be a rewarding experience but it can also be lonely and bewildering.  For almost 60 years, Carers UK have been making life better for carers, raising their voices together to call for change and seek recognition and support.