By using this platform, you agree to be bound by these terms and conditions. Click here to remove this message.

Back to search all records

Carers UK On-line Forum

Summary

Description

Operational Information

Evaluation

More Info

Summary

Carers Uk is a charity offering an online user friendly forum to overcome the social isolation of informal carers, offering peer-to-peer support and a virtual space for discussion and listening to each other.

The project’s strategic aim is to support, advise and involve informal carers by means of a listening ear and promote contact with other informal carers.

The motivations of the service are to provide informal carers with free help and a listening ear to help them care more effectively, make the most of their income, keep working and stay healthy.

The target users are informal carers (also migrant care workers i.e. paid assistants) and, indirectly, care recipients who benefit from more effective care, as well as formal carers whose work is facilitated by supported informal carers.

The services provided can be summed up as: supporting the quality of care through informal carers, supporting the quality of life of informal carers and participation of carers in the caring forum. In detail the services are: a telephone helpline, an online forum, a detailed website with guidance on informal carers’ rights, and an advice chat line. An important service is “Employers for carers” to help employers in recruiting informal carers so that they do not lose their jobs. Another service is an online direct contact section (e-mail, form and telephone helpline).

The forum is free to use by any informal carer, who must register for an account. Non-registering carers can freely browse without active participation.

The initiative survives thanks to mixed public-private funding. Public founders are NHS and social care and health services as well as Local Authorities. Private contributors are mainly non-profit and voluntary organizations.

Due to the relatively low cost of the service and its effectiveness, its sustainability is positive in terms of new funds. The only issue is a lack of marketing budget, which is one of the future projects. The past plan to increase the number of target users by also addressing professional formal carers was abandoned as it was unsuccessful. The “Employers for Carers” service is an important tool to gain new users (see also service section).

The set-up budget was below 10,000 euro and many organizations are currently involved: local authorities, the health and social care system, private care and the voluntary sector and private companies.

Among the professionals involved informal voluntary carers act as moderators and there are also social care professionals (i.e. formal carers) with different tasks.

Tutors also help informal carers in using the Internet. The volunteers make an important contribution. All persons working for Carers UK are trained and both volunteers and informal carers are supported by dedicated and expert staff.

The website is the main promotion tool for the initiative, and it attracts about 30.000 visitors (who do not necessarily post a message) each month. There are 18.315 forum members with 13.525 posted messages. 59 new members join the forum each month and 26,076 receive the newsletter.

The main strategies for promotion are publishing up to date data, providing seminars for informal and care organisations and training including training for informal carers on facilities, rights and support.

The initiative positively impacts on informal carers’ and care recipients’ quality of life and also on the NHS in terms of reduction of hospitalization and use of medicines.

The initiative impacts positively on private companies and labour market through its service “Employers for carers” (see also sustainability and service sections) that helps informal carers to keep working reducing the costs for replacing the worker as many informal carers are forced to give up their job.

It is intended to expand the forum with an Internet chat-room, offer more training to informal volunteer carers and open the initiative to new target groups. The coverage is national, European and International and the maturity of the operation is high so the service can be transferred to different contexts because it is useful to non-English speakers. Summing up, Carers UK is planning to strategically target new users to foster its effectiveness and competitiveness.

Description
refers to the target users, kind of service provided, ICTs typologies and devices used

Help
Carers UK On-line Forum
Help
Help
UK
Help
2006
Help
Help

The service aims to advise, involve and psychologically, practically and socially support informal carers.

Help

Carers UK intends to provide free help to informal carers to get the best for the care recipient, by helping them make the most of their income, encourage listening by formal carers, allow them to stay in paid work and keep healthy. It offers them a listening ear and a way to get in touch with other informal carers who can support each other. An important driver is that among its members, there are plenty of informal carers of elderly people in different conditions and the ‘virtual’ environment eliminates differences (policy differences relating to conditions, etc.) allowing informal carers to focus on common issues (e.g. the practical difficulties of caring). Secondly a motivation is the increasing number of the 6.5 million UK informal carers, who are not financially supported so that personal care costs are high. The service is meant to reduce the burden on informal carers’ finances, health, career, family and social life and to avoid their leaving paid work with consequent reliance on low-level benefits and severe financial hardship. Lastly, without unpaid carers, the NHS would collapse and the country would face a £119 billion care bill. As informal carers’ important contribution to the community is ignored and they are isolated with little or no support, Carers UK wants to stop this unfairness and to lead society to respect, value and support informal carers.

Help

Yes Care Recipients
Yes Informal carers
Yes Paid assistants
Yes Formal carers

Help

The main beneficiary/ies of the service:

-Care recipients

-Informal carers (relatives, friends or neighbours): the virtual environment eliminates or at least reduces the different conditions of the informal carer members so they can focus on common issues (e.g. the practical difficulties of caring) finding solutions together. .

-Paid assistants: care assistants who are privately hired by care recipients or their households (including migrant care workers).

-Formal carers: professionals affiliated to the formal care sector (just for a short period then this sector resulted as not competitive).

Help

No Independent Living
Yes Information and learning for carers
Yes Personal Support and Social Integration for carer
Yes Care coordination

Help

Carers UK offers informal carers a telephone helpline, a detailed website with guidance on carers' rights, and an online forum on which they can chat with each other, receive help and advice from Carers UK tutors, who signal useful initiatives and services.

Moreover on the website there is a contact section including a telephone advice line, an email contact address (advice@carersuk.org) as well as a contact form and office switchboard numbers for other inquiries. An important service is “Employers for carers” which:

  • Advises and supports employers to develop carer friendly policies and practices and retain skilled informal working carers.
  • Promotes the business benefits of supporting informal carers in the workplace.
  • Influences government and employment policy to create a supportive culture on working informal carers.

“Employers for Carers” is a membership forum of large and small employers. Leaders of the service are BT, Listawood, PricewaterhouseCoopers and the University of Leeds. Other members are the British Gas, the Metropolitan Police, the Government Equalities Office, NHS Trusts and local councils.

Lastly the “Contact Us” website section offers:

  • Online support: to Carers UK members 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Non-members can join online for free;
  • Advice: through the telephone advice line or by email (advice@carersuk.org) or using the form. The reply time is short;

Other enquiries: can be obtained by the office switchboard numbers or the form.

Help

Personal computer, internet connection, telephone.

Operational Information
refers to the type of funding, budget, sustainability and organisations involved

Help
Both public and private
Help
Public service funding: Government, Regional, Local Authorities, non-profit public entities
Help

Not available

Help
Private out of pocket: users pay the service by themselves
Help

Not available

Help

The forum was set up economically, using existing software which allowed the organisation to promote the forum as a way of supporting its many affiliate carers.

The forum is free to use by any carer, though carers are required to register for an account first. Non-registering carers are free to browse ('lurk') on the site and can often pick up hints and tips without active participation in the forum.

A few years ago the Forum was expanded to include care workers. This development was viewed as unsuccessful and had to be abandoned, because once carers became aware that a Forum user was a care worker, they “attacked” them, complaining about the quality of carer services. It was noted that another online forum developed by a different carers’ organisation with the intention of bringing carers together with care workers had experienced similar difficulties. Carers UK has no plans to redesign a forum for care workers in the future. There have been some discussion at Carers UK concerning whether membership of the forum – which is currently anonymous – should be made more formal by requesting users’ real names. This was thought to have advantages and disadvantages. In the first case, it would protect users from harassment and bullying by occasionally abusive members.

Help

The sustainability plan is focused on future funding to expand the number of moderators and keep providing them with training manuals. Since the forum is built on relatively cheap software, funding isn’t a large issue, though Carers UK would promote the service with a marketing budget which is currently lacking. It will focus on this possibility in the future.

Carers UK collaborates with many private organizations (see previous sections) in order to gain funding and synergies.

Help
€ 0 - 10,000
Help
Help

Not available

Help

Yes Authorities
Yes Private Care Sector
Yes Health and Social Care Systems
Yes Third Sector
Yes Private Companies

Help

Not available

Help
The third sector participates as funder (ONG, non profit organisations and volunteers).
Help

Yes Informal Carers
No Health Professionals
Yes Social Care Professionals
No Privately-Hired Care Assistants (inc. Migrant Care Workers)
Yes Volunteers

Help
  • 2  moderators
  • 2 formal carers’ staffs to help moderate among their wider duties.
  • Carers UK tutors support informal carers unused to Internet forums in using it. The system includes a handy guide, but when an informal carer has questions or is not able to participate to the forum, the tutors are available.
Help

2 carer volunteers are in the staff of the organization with the role of moderators and this shows the important role played by volunteering in the Carers UK organization.The volunteers are mainly mentors of other formal carers in charge of an online mentoring service available to anyone in England, as well as of a face to face mentoring service for those in the Birmingham area. Volunteers don’t need any special skills other than time, patience and commitment. Just listening and supporting informal carers fosters their self-esteem, confidence and emotional resilience. Volunteers positively contribute to carers’ lives, with the opportunity to develop their own skills, expertise and training. Indeed Carers UK offers full training to volunteers and informal carers who are supported by a dedicated, expert staff. Carers UK is aware that informal carers can find taking their first steps into the virtual community intimidating, so volunteer moderators are welcome because they support new users.

Help
10,001 - 50,000
Help

The website is the main promotion tool for the initiative, and it attracts about 30.000 visitors (who do not necessarily post a message) each month. There are 18.315 forum members with 13.525 posted messages. 59 new members join the forum each month and 26,076 receive the newsletter.

Help

The service is promoted through the website and word of mouth. Promotion strategies consist in:

  • A published tabulated data (data from the Office for National Statistics) by local area on detailed information on the informal carers’ characteristics to inform informal carers and their employers;
  • Expert seminars to learn about the available advantages and facilities for informal carers and for care organisations they work with.
  • Training to inform informal carers on their rights, caring legislation, laws, and supports (allowances, economic benefits, regulations)
  • Newsletter.

Evaluation
refers to the impact of the service on end-users, care organisations and authorities

Help

The service has a positive influence on:

- Informal carers, because it reconciles care and work, improves their social life and health. It impacts positively on informal carers as it avoids their social isolation, provides training courses and the possibility to share their experiences not feeling alone. The initiative is helps carers, feel stronger as more people hear others’ real caring experiences, problems and solutions rather than trying to work them out alone..

- Paid assistants:, because improves their social life and health.

- Elderly people: the service improves their health and wellbeing as the informal care quality is more appropriate and effective.

Other benefits are:

-the higher level of the ICT acceptability by informal carers;

- improved quality of care management

Help

The service has a positive influence on:

- Private organisations that provide care: the service helps to save costs and optimize resources

- Companies and labour market: as currently 1 out of 5 informal carers give up work to care full time and due to the increasing number of UK informal carers, Carers UK helps companies and the labour market to minimize turn-over of workers and save costs for replacing them both through the service “Employers for carers” (see the sustainability and kind of services sections for details) and also supporting informal carers’ reconciliation of work and care.

Help

The service may have a positive influence on:

public authorities, NHS and social care services, because it helps to save the costs of home caring and hospitalisation and is effective in training informal carers and qualifying formal carers; thus helping them to optimise financial and human resources. In particular the service saves on the costs of home caring and hospitalisation related to wrong caring and neglect and as it reduces the social isolation and psychological burden of informal carers, it reduces the expenditure on medicines and hospitalisations.

In addition Carers UK organises campaigns on informal carers’ rights favouring the public awareness on the caring issues.

Help

Strengths:

  1. The service keeps informal carers in touch reducing their social isolation, listening to their stories, and supporting them psychologically and practically .
  2. This service is not expensive because the forum is built on a relatively cheap existing software.
  3. A service of tutoring for carers who are not skilled in the web and pc use is available
  4. the service is helpful to non-English native speakers as the website contains a section with information in other languages

Weaknesses:

  1. The service can only reach carers who are able to use internet and digital devices and there are not so many, especially over 70 years of age. Thus, a training for digital language learning a is needed.

Opportunities:

  1. It is important for moderators to know how to handle difficult situations; for example, on one occasion a moderator had received a private message from an informal carer threatening to kill himself. This is the evidence that training for moderators are needed for giving them right psychological tools for managing difficult personal situations that can occur. This is an opportunity to increase the service effectiveness.
  2. To look for new market opportunities, data and statistics captured regularly from the forum tools and numbers of users, posters, lurkers are readily available and can be used to evaluate how informal carers use the forum, what are its benefits, virtues and drawbacks.

Threats:

  1. Carers UK would like to promote the Forum more widely to consider the use of Internet chat-rooms, allowing users to chat together more quickly. However, there are a range of difficulties (relating to moderation, etc.) which require careful planning, and this service is not yet available. Private messaging is facilitated by the Forum’s technology. Messages cannot be moderated and there are some difficulties in dealing with abuse between members conducted by this private method.

Challenges:

  1. Make the web site and the Forum more accessible for older people.
Help

As far as plans to increase the scalability and transferability are concerned, Carers UK hopes to expand the forum in the future using Internet chat-rooms to allow users to discuss more quickly (despite the threat to this plan described in the SWOT section). They would like to train more informal carer volunteers as moderators promoting the forum among new groups of informal carers who are computer literate.As far as the transferability to other target users, Carers UK has no future plans to redesign a forum for formal care workers (see section on sustainability about this past negative experience) The service has a national, European and International coverage and it is operatively mature so it could be easily transferred in different contests or in not already covered international countries. Due to past experience there has been some discussion whether the currently anonymous forum membership should be made formal by requesting users’ real names however this has advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are protection of users from occasionally abusive members. The disadvantage is that the anonymity of the forum is a valuable attraction for informal carers seeking a virtual “comfort, trust and community”. Moreover experience has shown the importance of adopting a “zero-tolerance” towards people violating the forum “supportive environment”.There is the possibility that the web and the Forum are not accessible for older people because the most frequent web users age was about 40, though there were some older members. The youngest member was approximately 20 years old. In addition, the average age of Forum users was thought to be lower than that of the informal registered carers.

More Information
includes contacts, publications and accompanying documents

Help

Yeandle S. and Fry G. (2010), The potential of ICT in supporting domiciliary care in England,JRC-IPTS, available in ftp://ftp.jrc.es/pub/EURdoc/JRC56438.pdf (last access June 2013)

 

In the Resources section http://www.carersuk.org/professionals/resources many publications are available, following five categories:

  1. Policy Briefings
  2. Research Library
  3. Practice Guides
  4. Responses to the Government
  5. Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) policies
Help

Advice line is 0808 808 7777: it is open Wednesday and Thursday from 10-12 a.m. and 2-4 p.m.

E-mail address: advice@carersuk.org

Carers Uk

20 Great Dover Street London

SE1 4LX

Tel 020 7378 4999

Carers Northern Ireland

58 Howard Street

Belfast BT1 6JP

Tel 02890 439 843

Carers Scotland

The Cottage

21 Pearce Street G51 3UT

Tel 0141 445 3070

Carers Wales

River House

Ynys Bridge Court

Cardiff

CF15 9SS

Tel 02920 811 370