Unpaid carers provide significant levels of support to family or friends–equivalent to four million paid care workers. Carers often need support with their own health and wellbeing, but they are not always able to access this. Researchers from The King's Fund interviewed commissioners and providers of support to unpaid carers, ran focus groups with unpaid carers in four areas of England, spoke to national stakeholders and reviewed existing literature and national data sets, in order to understand the current picture of local support available for unpaid carers in England.
- To better support unpaid carers locally, commissioners and services need to develop and maintain a good understanding of their populations. This can be facilitated by supporting local professionals to identify and point carers to available services, meaningfully measuring the impact of support and engaging with local carers.
- Local support offers should be built on this understanding. Commissioners and providers of services for unpaid carers need to actively develop awareness of their local support offers among unpaid carers, at the same time ensuring support is appropriate and accessible, as well as inclusive of diverse populations. Carers are a hugely diverse group, both in terms of who they are and who they care for, but policy and services don’t always reflect this diversity.
- Awareness of carers needs to be embedded in strategic level and commissioning decisions. Professionals who ‘get it’ and advocate consistently are vital. But the work can’t just rely on a few committed individuals—system-level carers’ partnerships and strategies have a key role in advocating and embedding the carers agenda.
- The impact of wider health and care issues on carers cannot be ignored. The impacts of ongoing funding issues and the health and social care workforce crises on carers and local support services were highlighted multiple times in our research. Workforce shortages in particular are directly impacting on carers health and wellbeing because they are the ones left to fill in the gaps.