There is now a wealth of national and international material and research about carers, However, this body of research is currently fragmented and lacks accessibility and utility, rendering finding information about carer research problematic and impeding its capacity to reliably inform future research. The subject of this paper is a scoping review which will – for the first time – provide a comprehensive overview of existing carer-related research and evidence. This 10 month review, which started in March 2016, aims to scope, capture, organise and synthesise existing national and relevant international carer-related evidence and knowledge. For example, policy and practice documents, research findings/summaries, summaries of carer-related data from national surveys, summaries of events, consultations, websites, reports, grey literature and academic papers/materials.
The methodology adopted focuses on mapping this broad range of research, evidence and knowledge within a framework that enables the material to be managed and structured. Both vertical and horizontal approaches to analysis are being used. Vertical analysis is based on selected characteristics (e.g. age, gender, marital status, ethnicity) of a sub-set of the carer population. The four priority areas of the 2010 Carers Strategy inform the horizontal analysis. These are listed below together with the set of research questions which have been distilled for each priority.
1. Identification and recognition
a. What is known about approaches to recognising and identifying carers?
b. How are ‘hidden’ groups of carers identified and supported?
c. How are carers recognised and involved in policy and practice development?
2. Realising and Releasing Potential
a. What is known about the impact of caring on education, training and employment participation?
b. What support enables carers to remain in or return to education, training or employment?
3. A life outside Caring
a. What is known about the impact of caring on people’s social and leisure activity, family and community participation?
b. What enables people’s participation in life outside caring?
4. Staying Healthy
a. What is known about the impact of caring on health and wellbeing?
b. What enables carers to stay healthy?
A matrix that integrates both these dimensions of the analysis and allows cross-reference between different elements has been developed. A template for summarising and categorizing resources in the review was also designed at the beginning of the review and is regularly updated.
In addition to outlining this unique and timely project, this paper will provide a reflection on the methodology and analysis along with some of the interim outcomes and their implications.