Costing adult care: comments on the ONS valuation of unpaid adult care

Publication type

Research Paper


Publication date

May 1, 2002


This paper examines the experimental ‘household satellite account’ (HHSA) for
valuing unpaid adult care produced by the Office for National Statistics. It
concentrates on developing alternative estimates of the number of adults receiving
care and the number of hours of informal care provided. The valuation of continuous
or round-the-clock care is also examined.
The key findings are:
· Around three million disabled adults were receiving informal care in 1996/97,
almost 50 per cent higher than the total number of recipients considered in the
· Estimates for the total number of hours devoted to unpaid adult care are around
20 per cent higher than the amount of care considered in the HHSA.
· Service arrangements that are equivalent to the provision of ‘continuous’ unpaid
care would almost double the HHSA valuation.
The findings suggest that the volume, and therefore the value, of unpaid adult care
have been seriously underestimated. The HHSA relies on a survey that consistently
underestimates the amount of informal care provided nationally. Moreover, the value
of adult care is particularly sensitive to the choice of residential care provision as the
nearest equivalent service to care provided round-the-clock. Residential care
achieves considerable economies of scale; because these are impossible to
reproduce in a domestic setting, the value of adult care is significantly discounted
and the validity of the HHSA is undermined.






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