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Carers UK is a responsive charity, led by carers, for carers and with carers. Many of our staff and trustees are carers or former carers themselves, and together with our 35,000 members and 700+ volunteers form the backbone of our organisation, shaping and informing all we do.

Carers UK’s areas of work fall into the following core activities:

  • Help by providing expert advice, information and support – through a 5 day a week adviceline, website, online tools, factsheets and guides.
  • Connect carers so no-one has to care alone – through our peer support services over the phone, online and face to face in the community.
  • Campaign and lead the carers’ movement, bringing carers together to have a voice, raise awareness and influence decision makers to deliver lasting change.
  • Innovate to find new ways to reach and support carers, and develop products and tools to help people better manage care.

What CSAIF funded:

Carers UK were awarded £391,580 to establish a new, integrated country-wide social action programme to enable carers to support carers by integrating Carers UK’s portfolio of seven distinct volunteer led carer support projects. The existing projects provided a range of opportunities for people to help others in differing formats, settings and intensity: online, face to face in groups and one-to-one. The integration of these projects provides the infrastructure and support to attract more volunteers and allow them to take up multiple roles in a more flexible way. Read the full impact evaluation.

About the evaluation

Aim: Carers UK evaluation aimed to address the following three questions:

  1. What value do the interventions provided by volunteers bring to carers accessing the service?
  2. How effective is the current monitoring and evaluation framework at capturing the impact of the service and evidencing relevant outcomes?
  3. In economic terms, how sustainable is the current volunteer programme, and will this system enable effective scaling of the programme?

Evaluator: Renaisi

Key findings:

  • In total there were 506 volunteers across the programme at the time of the evaluation, costing £609 per volunteer on average per year.
  • 55.6% percent of respondents to one survey reported that a Carers UK volunteer had helped them to identify themselves as a carer – an important step towards accessing the appropriate support, rights and entitlements associated with being a carer
  • 88% of respondents to another survey agreed or strongly agreed that they are more aware of support and how to access it
  • An important finding was that the analysis of the membership survey (with over 700 responses) demonstrated that there were in fact differences in the mean wellbeing scores for those accessing different Carers UK services. Compared to the membership as a whole, users accessing Reach and Connect services score higher than average on wellbeing scores (and better than all other groups). They are more positive about their situation on a number of indicators. They report that they are;
  1. Less isolated
  2. Significantly less likely to see themselves as at breaking point
  3. More able to take a break on average
  4. More likely to have more support, information and contact about their caring role, and a feeling that they are more recognised and valued by others.

Overall, the analysis indicates that;

  1. the level of satisfaction with Carers UK is linked to service use,
  2. the ‘Connect’ types of activity are key for carers to feel they benefit from using the service
  3. going forward it is important to understand how different groups of users access the services and how uptake can be improved.

Level on Standards: Level 1 - You can describe what you do and why it matters, logically, coherently and convincingly.

Methodology:

Method: (i) review of organisational background data; (ii) observations to develop organisational understanding; (iii) interviews with Carers UK staff, volunteers; and carers; (iv) focus group with volunteers; (v) membership wellbeing survey; (vi) listening support survey; (vii) forum survey; (viii) members recruited by volunteers survey, economic modelling template to analyse the costs associated with each volunteer role and type of activity

Analysis

Renaisi analysed the mean wellbeing scores from the members survey (with over 700 responses) against the types of Carers UK services that the members use or have used, acknowledging the differing levels of volunteer input into the different services as well as volunteer costs. This was to establish whether there are any differences in the wellbeing for different service user groups, that could be further explored by other research methods and also to monitor this data in the future alongside changes in the offer of types of support, or volunteering roles.

  • Participants: Focus group participants were either selected based on their availability, or were self-selected. Members and volunteers interviewed were recruited by asking them to self-select to take part. Surveys were distributed at all relevant levels of the Carers UK programme.
  • Why this Level: This evaluation collected a wealth of data that indicates a positive impact on the individuals that its volunteering programme supports. However, without pre-post data showing a positive change in outcome over time, the programme did not quite reach Level 2.

About the evidence journey

Progress: Though this has evaluation has not quite progressed the Carers UK volunteering programme to a higher level on the Standards of Evidence, it has put in place a comprehensive, sustainable set of data collection tools and processes that Carers UK can continue to use going forward, to monitor the programme’s impact over time:

  • The new data collection system that was implemented over the course of the evaluation has strengthened the data collection framework. It has enabled Carers UK to implement a more robust framework for collecting data relating to each of the outcomes. The expectation is that this work will enable Carers UK to continue to build on these improvements in the future.
  • Overall, each of the data collection points tells a different story about the outcomes and the impact of volunteering on beneficiaries, but collectively they create the opportunity to make stronger statements regarding the impact of the volunteering programme on carers who access the service and Carers UK members.

Lessons learned:

  • The Reach, Connect, Support model is effective in identifying carers and putting them in touch with vital support
  • By promoting volunteering opportunities to its growing membership of 35,000 carers and former carers, Carers UK is able to rapidly scale up its volunteering programme
  • By introducing a flexible volunteering programme with several volunteer roles, flexibility is also required in how volunteers are able to report on their activities
  • Introducing an online microsite has provided a cost effective approach to connecting volunteers with each other across the UK, but more work is required to improve digital literacy and encourage more volunteers to use the site
  • The evaluation toolkit developed with Renaisi has provided a sustainable methodology for measuring the impact of the volunteering programme in the coming years

Next steps:

Carers UK's volunteering programme is expanding UK-wide with the support of a five-year grant awarded in July 2016 from Big Lottery Fund through the Accelerating Ideas scheme. Through this funding Carers UK aims to increase its reach and support to older people as they are identified as the fastest growing group of carers over the next five years. Support will also be extended to working carers and local communities.

Carers UK is confident that the evaluation toolkit developed with Renaisi will enable Level 2 of the Standards of Evidence to be achieved during 2017. This will be done by gathering follow-up data from Carers UK members on carer support, health and wellbeing (which can be compared with the baseline impact data collected in 2016). Drawing on the expertise of New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) a new Knowledge and Learning Plan is being developed which will focus on improving the process of how Carers UK recruit, train, support, engage and retain volunteers as the programme is scaled up further across the UK.