To mark the United Nations International Day of Older Persons on 1 October 2023, researchers from the Centre for Ageing and Dementia Research (CADR) are highlighting their programme of work evaluating the impact of short breaks for unpaid carers. Bangor University is a partner in CADR, a world class research centre addressing key internationally important questions in ageing and dementia.
The theme of this year’s awareness day is fulfilling the promises of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for Older Persons. This includes asking organisations to review their current practices to better integrate a life course approach to human rights in their work, and to ensure the active and meaningful participation of all stakeholders, including civil society, national human rights institutions, and older persons themselves, in the work on strengthening solidarity among generations and intergenerational partnerships.
Short breaks are any form of assistance that enable unpaid carers to have sufficient, regular periods away from their caring responsibilities with the purpose of supporting the caring relationship, the unpaid carer and other impacted family members (Shared Care Scotland, 2017). Unpaid carers do not have to take a break separately from the person with support needs and short breaks may draw on informal support rather than a service. Short breaks can be taken in or away from the home and be of any duration, but the focus is on planned breaks rather than emergency replacement care. It is essential unpaid carers have access to breaks. Wales has the highest percentage of unpaid carers in the UK (Social Care Institute for Excellence, 2018), estimated at 500,000 in 2022 (Carers Wales, 2022). The detrimental impact of caring on unpaid carers physical and mental health, wellbeing, and opportunities for social engagement is well-recognised. Short breaks can help unpaid carers reach their potential in education and employment and achieve a life alongside caring, thus making an important contribution to healthy, sustainable societies that recognise, value, and support unpaid carers.
CADR, which is funded by Health and Care Research Wales, has already helped to shape the Welsh Government’s National Strategy for Unpaid Carers. This includes the new National Short Breaks Fund, announced in April 2022, to which the Welsh Government has committed £9 million.
Led by researchers at Bangor University, CADR researchers are now evaluating the implementation of this fund and the outcomes for unpaid carers and those they support:
We welcome the new short breaks fund, which commits to delivering bespoke break options that align with unpaid carers’ short break needs, short break preferences and desired wellbeing outcomes and we are pleased to be working with Carers Trust Wales to understand the reach and impact of the new fund.
In the evaluation, running between 2023 and 2025, unpaid carers will be surveyed prior to taking their short break and then on two further occasions to capture the impact the break has had. Unpaid carers and the people they support can contribute a Most Significant Change story about their break experience. Analysis of spend and reach reports compiled by short breaks providers will highlight which unpaid carers are accessing short breaks, and crucially which unpaid carers are not accessing short breaks. It will also highlight the range of break options available. This intelligence will help to inform the future commissioning and delivery of short breaks for unpaid carers across Wales.