Background: Individuals caring informally for chronically ill/disabled friends or relatives are themselves particularly susceptible to stress and even ill-health (Greenwood et al, 2013; O’Shaughnessy 2010), with potentially significant implications for relevant services. Providing support to carers has consequently become a priority in many countries (see, e.g., Greenwood et al, 2013; Purcal et al, 2012). In the United Kingdom, the ‘Carers’ Breaks’ scheme provides tailor-made support for carers, including respite care, short breaks or on-going financing of gym/education sessions. Carers’ Breaks funding is typically provided jointly by Local Authorities and Primary Healthcare Services.
Aim: The Carers’ Breaks scheme in one UK city was evaluated from November 2012-December 2013 to determine its impact.
Methods: University ethical approval was gained for the mixed-methods evaluation. This paper presents qualitative findings. Forty carers participated in semi-structured telephone interviews, which focused on whether carers could use the support provided by the scheme, and, if so, its impact on their wellbeing. Data were analysed thematically.
Findings: Many carers described difficult situations, often compounded financially through inability to work due to caring responsibilities. Cared-for individuals included spouses, parents and children. In some cases, carers did not feel able to leave the cared-for person, due to their dependence upon them; some therefore did not accept support. However, others found alternative ways of using available funding. Where support was accessed, carers often reported that it significantly improved their quality of life.
Discussion and Conclusion: Three main issues arise from these findings: the confirmation of the difficult circumstances which many carers experience, and the accompanying necessity of providing them with support; the positive effect experienced by carers who can accept support; and the need to consider creatively how best to offer support, so that carers can access it. These issues will be discussed in this paper, and recommendations made for practice.
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Purcal C et al (2012) From Assistance to Prevention. Social Policy & Administration 46(7) 788–806