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evaluation

Carers UK Thinking Ahead resource - What Works Fund

Evidence type: Evaluation i

Description of the programme

Carers UK piloted an online resource called Thinking Ahead. The project was designed to raise awareness among working age people about the potential costs of providing care for family or friends, and to help people plan ahead for managing this life event if necessary. The online resource was designed as a single entry point, providing information, guidance and signposting to support on the potential impact of caring. The pilot was available UK-wide, and users were required to complete pre-and post- surveys. 251 users completed the pre-tool survey, and 133 completed the post-tool survey.

The study

The UK has 6.5 million carers supporting someone who is older, disabled or seriously ill, and approximately 2 million people become carers each year. Caring is a key life transition. Carers UK’s 2014 State of Caring Survey found that over half of carers (54%) said that it took over a year for them to recognise their role as that of an unpaid carer and around half (48%) felt they had missed out on financial support as a result. The primary target audience for piloting the online resource was working-age people aged 18-65 who are in employment and have either identified as caring for a loved one or could be affected by caring in the future. The project was designed to better prepare participants for a caring role in the future.

Carers UK commissioned New Philanthropy Capital (NPC) to evaluate the project. The process and outcomes evaluation aimed to address the following research question:

‘Does a better understanding of the impacts of caring on their finances help working-age people in employment to make better decisions regarding how they plan for life events, like caring?’

The evaluators employed a mixed-methods approach, drawing on pre- and post- survey responses from Thinking Ahead resource users, follow-up user surveys undertaken after two-three months, and 12 semi-structured follow-up interviews with users.

Key findings

Process evaluation

  • Findings from the participant post-resource survey and semi-structured interviews were considered by the project team. As a result, suggested improvements were agreed for the online resource, such as including interactive signposting and making the resource available as a standalone tool on the Carers UK website.

Outcomes evaluation

  • Knowledge: After completing the resource, the largest increase in knowledge, (reported by 82% of participants), was regarding the costs of equipment, technology and adaptations to help make someone’s home safer, their life easier, and increase their independence.
  • Attitudes: Qualitative feedback indicated that the resource commonly helped working age people think about the future costs of caring and would in time help them to make better decisions when planning for life events such as caring.
  • Functionality: Qualitative feedback indicated that some participants found the online resource helpful, informative and easy to follow.

Points to consider

Methodological considerations:

  • Unfortunately the external evaluator was unable to draw any statistically significant conclusions from comparing participants’ behaviours and knowledge before completing the resource and two-three months later, due to insufficient follow-up survey data.
  • The surveys asked respondents to self-assess their knowledge levels prior to using the online tool. Results should be viewed with caution as this is a subjective assessment. Participants may under- or over-estimate their prior knowledge, reducing the robustness of apparent changes reported in the survey data pre-and post- intervention.
  • The lack of a control group means it was not possible for the evaluation to evidence causality. The evaluation could not therefore draw definitive conclusions about the effectiveness of the online resource.

Generalisability

  • Given the smaller sample sizes for analysis, it is not possible to generalise from these results to the wider population.

Full report

Carers UK Thinking Ahead resource - full report

Contact information

Carers UK