Finding and understanding the needs of hidden unpaid carers in Medway

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Summary of report content

Healthwatch Medway undertook research to understand how to reach informal carers. The COVID 19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown and shielding programme, meant that more people were looking after people at home than ever before. Many of them were not known to the regular services and so are known as hidden carers. F

or local authorities it brought the need to understand the implications of how much ‘hidden’ care is provided by families and friends within the community sharply into focus. However, this is not an easy task, especially during a lockdown. Many of these individuals wouldn’t necessarily class themselves as a carer.

Working in partnership with Carers First, and the Medway Better Together Consortium, Healthwatch designed a series of social media adverts encouraging people to get in touch and see what support was available to them. The adverts reached over 50,000 people but only 10 people asked for Carers First to contact them. These 10 people were caring for a range of family and neighbours, some providing 24-hour care and undertaking a range of practical and personal care tasks.

Given that the Office of National Statistics reported that an estimated 15% of the population were offering care and support in April 2020, Healthwatch wanted to explore why less than 1% of the people that saw their social media advert made contact. They used different methods to examine this from a range of perspectives. From this they concluded that:

Social media has the ability to reach a large number of people, but it lacks the personal and face to face interaction needed to help overcome the barriers around starting a conversation. The design and wording of social media adverts can be tailored to resonate with target groups.

There were a number of key barriers to help seeking behaviours for unpaid carers in Medway. People have low expectations of what care is available based on previous experience of looking for help, or on the experience of friends. Carers feel a sense of duty, resignation and endurance. People do not identify themselves as Carers and don’t know where to go to find information. The person who is cared for, and sometimes the carer, wish to stay independent and maintain control of their situation.

The single most effective way to overcome these barriers is a trusting relationship with a professional, who can reflect back to the individual that they are a carer, offer information, an invitation to talk about the experience of being a carer and signpost them to the appropriate carers support.

The report has three recommendations to address the issues raised in the report.

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General details

Report title 
Finding and understanding the needs of hidden unpaid carers in Medway
Local Healthwatch 
Healthwatch Medway
Date of publication 
Monday, 26 April, 2021
Key themes 
Health inequalities
Holistic support
Information providing

Methodology and approach

Was the work undertaken at the request of another organisation? 
Primary research method used 
If an Enter and View methodology was applied, was the visit announced or unannounced? 

Details of health and care services included in the report

Social care services 
Adult social care
Community services 

Details of people who shared their views

Number of people who shared their views 
Age group 
Not known
Not known
Not known
Sexual orientation 
Not known
Other population characteristics 
People with limited family or social networks
Does the information include public's views? 
Does the information include carer's, friend's or relative's views? 
Does the information include staff's views? 
What was the main sentiment of the people who shared their views? 

Outcomes and impact

Were recommendations made by local Healthwatch in the report? 
Does the information contain a response from a provider? 
Is there evidence of impact in the report? 
Is there evidence of impact external to the report? 
Not known

Network Impact
Relationships that exist locally, regionally, nationally have benefited from the work undertaken in the report
Implied Impact
Where it is implied that change may occur in the future as a result of Healthwatch work. This can be implied in a provider  response, press release or other source. Implied impact can become tangible impact once change has occurred.
Tangible Impact
There is evidence of change that can be directly attributed to Healthwatch work undertaken in the report.