Supporting carers

Understanding how best carers can be supported is vital and needs to be informed by evidence and knowledge.

There has been relatively little attention directed to examining what makes a difference to carers or which interventions can be judged to be (cost) effective.

This page and accompanying film are part of a resource that presents findings from a scoping review of knowledge and research evidence relating to carers and carers lives and issues. These findings should inform future research, policy development and improve practice in delivering carer support.

Supporting carers

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The review showed that in recent years, there has been unprecedented policy commitment to carer support. More specifically, there has been a focus on the importance of assessing and addressing carers’ needs in national carers’ strategies and legislation, including the Care Act 2014.

This latest legislation introduced new rights for adult carers in relation to assessment and support planning, information and advice. Although the emphasis on assessing carers’ needs has increased, translation into practice continues to be challenging. For example, the number of carers’ assessments carried out remains low overall and their quality variable between councils. There is also evidence carers are still struggling to get the support that they need to care, work and have a life outside caring.

Policy and research attention has also been increasingly directed at examining interventions to support carers and identifying what works. However, evidence is generally inconclusive and of variable quality. An underlying problem is that evaluating the effectiveness of interventions is complex. Whilst this in part reflects the diversity of the carer population, there are several other contributory factors. One is rooted in the nature of the dyadic caring relationship. Whilst services may be developed to support carers specifically (such as respite and breaks from caring), services provided to support a person needing care (such as home care) may also benefit the carer. Nonetheless, the scoping review showed there were also some examples of interventions where evidence is more conclusive. These are:

  1. interventions for dementia carers
    • professionally-led support groups
    • meditation-based interventions
    • psychosocial ICT interventions
    • educational programmes for carers of older people with dementia
  2. psychosocial interventions
    • interventions targeting communication and education
    • coping strategy therapy sessions
    • cognitive reframing

Explore SCIE’s wider index of content on carers.

Search carers resources from Social Care Online, the UK’s largest database of care knowledge and research..

Find out more about this knowledge review