June 11, 2014
Two recent studies by researchers at the Personal Social Services Research Unit (PSSRU) at Kent and LSE explored the quality of life of informal carers who are supporting people using social care services.
Over five million people in England provide help or support on an informal, and usually unpaid, basis to a family member, friend or neighbour. The contribution made by carers to the social care system is increasingly recognised in legislation, such as the 2014 Care Act and in health and social care policy.
In some circumstances, caring for a loved one can be fulfilling. However the physical and emotional demands of caring can have detrimental effects on carers’ own well-being. Supporting carers to maintain their well-being is one of the key policy priorities in the 2010 update of the Carers’ Strategy.
The findings from the two studies reported below demonstrate how social care services can affect carers’ well-being.
The first study involved 31 carers who took part in face-to-face interviews to give an insight into their experiences of social care services and perceptions of their quality of life. The key findings showed that:
- Despite the recent promotion of policies to support carers in England, barriers to accessing social care support persist.
- Attitudes towards service use may affect carers’ quality of life.
- Social and community exclusion can adversely affect carers’ quality of life.
- Carers’ quality of life is affected by the provision of social care support directed at carers, as well as the provision of support to those they care for.
The second study examined the experiences of over 35,000 informal carers across 90 local authority areas in England, by analysing data from the 2009/10 Personal Social Services Survey of Adults Carers in England (PSS SACE). The survey is collected every two years and is managed and collated by the Health & Social Care Information Centre. Information about carers’ experiences of social care services and their quality of life across several different areas of their lives were collected. The key findings showed that:
- Carers with particular characteristics or circumstances were more likely to report poor quality of life, for example carers providing 20 or more hours of support per week.
- The degree of influence these characteristics had on quality of life scores differed depending on the carers’ ethnic background.
- Carers reporting good experiences of social care services were more likely to rate their quality of life positively, in particular carers who were able to access helpful information and services easily.
- The difficulties reported by carers from non-white ethnic groups in accessing information and appropriate services may to some extent account for their lower quality of life scores, although differences in their demographic profile, such as generally being younger, are also contributory factors.
While there is much to welcome about the policy direction in England, these studies demonstrate that barriers still exist for carers seeking appropriate information and support. Clearer pathways to support, and improved engagement with communities where there may be additional language or cultural barriers, are required to effectively support the well-being of all carers. However, in the current austere climate, the financial pressures faced by local authorities represent a challenge to the realisation of the vision of the Carers’ Strategy and the Care Act.
Study 1 Details
About the Authors:
Stacey Rand is a Research Officer at the Personal Social Services Research Unit at the University of Kent.
Juliette Malley is a Research Fellow at the Personal Social Services Research Unit at London School of Economics and Political Science and the University of Kent.
The research discussed here was funded by the Department of Health and undertaken by researchers working within the Quality and Outcomes of person-centred care Research Unit.
Study 2 Details
A number of articles will be published reporting on these findings in detail. Look out for further blog posts highlighting this work.
About the Authors:
Diane Fox is a Research Officer at the Personal Social Services Research Unit at the University of Kent.
Dr Theresia Bäumker is a Research Fellow at the Personal Social Services Research Unit at the University of Kent.
Professor Ann Netten is Professor of Social Welfare at the Personal Social Services Research Unit at the University of Kent.
This research was one part of a project funded by the NIHR School for Social Care Research. The views expressed within this post are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the NIHR School for Social Care Research or the Department of Health.
The Health and Social Care Information Centre retains copyright of the information from the Personal Social Services Survey of Adult Carers in England and it is “re-used with the permission of the Health and Social Care Information Centre. All rights reserved, Copyright © 2009”.