Supporting carers for people with mental health problems: needs assessment to service provision

Authors: C.A. Robinson, D. Seddon, A. Krayer, Y. Tommis, A. Roberts, B. Gray

Funded By: The Big Lottery Fund

Started: 2004

Finished: 2010

Contact: Diane Seddon

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Summary

Policy and practice guidance advocates the involvement of carers who look after someone with mental health problems in care decisions and treatments. However, research suggests that carers are still experiencing social and personal exclusion and often feel ignored by services (e.g., Askey, et al., 2009; Lyons et al., 2009; Pinfold & Corry, 2003). Thus, the overall purpose of the research described here was to provide an evidence base to inform the development of effective and inclusive services which facilitate the social inclusion of carers for people with mental health problems. There were five key research aims:

  • To describe the strategic arrangements to support carers for people with mental health problems across Wales.
  • To identify the needs and note the services responses to those needs of a broadly representative sample of carers for people with mental health problems.
  • To identify factors which hinder and factors which facilitate the social inclusion of carers for people with mental health problems.
  • To highlight, from a number of different stakeholder perspectives, the ways in which carers for people with mental health problems can be supported to play a full part in economic, social and community activities.
  • To inform the planning, development and implementation of services to support carers for people with mental health problems

Adopting a multi-method approach, we collected initial survey data from eighty-one carers and subsequently conducted in-depth interviews with seventy-six members of staff and thirty-six carers. Twelve carers were re-interviewed approximately seven months later.

Findings

Findings from the current study highlight that there is still a gap between policy guidance and current practice in relation to carers. Becoming a carer for someone with mental health problems affects the life course and can dramatically change expectations. Caring for someone with mental health problems has a ripple effect on all aspects of a carer’s life such as family relationships, physical and mental health, the ability to form and maintain friendships, being able to undertake paid employment and financial expectations. In order to cope, professional support for carers is important and low perceived control over and involvement in service provision and treatment can increase feelings of stress and helplessness. From the perspective of carers, disregard of their expertise by health and social care professionals may impede recovery of care-recipients. Overall, the implications of carers’ social exclusion need to be comprehensively addressed by social care, health and voluntary professionals as well as planners and policy makers in a holistic manner. Of importance is the recognition that carers all undertake individual journeys and have differing needs at different times.


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