Reaching out or missing out: approaches to outreach with family carers in social care organisations

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Abstract

Outreach is advocated as a way of improving the uptake of services among underserved populations and of filling the gaps between mainstream services and the populations they are intended to support. Despite the policy emphasis on providing better help for family carers, research consistently shows that many of those providing unpaid care to a family member or friend report difficulties in finding out about the assistance to which they are entitled. This article presents results from a concurrent mixed-methods study, which aimed to describe different ways of working with family carers in adult social care departments and to collect the views of a range of stakeholders about the advantages and disadvantages of the approaches that were identified. A total of 86 semi-structured face-to-face interviews were undertaken with a purposive sample of funders, carers' workers, representatives of voluntary organisations and family carers based in four contrasting localities. An email survey was sent to all local councils in England with social care responsibilities and resulted in a 53% response rate. Data collection took place in 2012, with a small number of interviews being completed in 2011. Our approach to data analysis combined methodological, data and theoretical triangulation. The findings presented here mainly draw on the interview data to highlight the different models of outreach that we identified. The article highlights important differences between outreach and the provision of information. It concludes that organisations providing support for carers need to consider the advantages and disadvantages of different models of outreach as they develop carers' support and the extent to which different models might be more effective than others in reaching particular types of carer.

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