Introduction

Key findings from the study include effective employment support for carers can be provided through different delivery models, but those which are most effective are characterised by flexible skills provision which carers can access alongside their caring commitments, and tailored support to meet the diversity and complexity of carers’ needs; and appropriately skilled staff and strong partnership working with other local organisations are also important criteria for effective employment support. Key challenges have been public sector funding cuts to carer support services and low awareness among carers of the availability of tailored employment support services. Case study organisations addressed some of these challenges by diversifying their funding base or by utilising pump prime funding. Raising awareness about their services has been attempted through outreach and social media. Much-needed employment support for carers has been delivered at a time of public funding cuts, and when mainstream employment support services have experienced major restructuring. Over half of survey respondents reported a ‘hard’ outcome as a result of accessing the support of the six case studies involved in this research highlighting that these voluntary services are very effective in terms of their impact. This is particularly impressive given the complexity of these carers’ needs. For example, just under half of all survey respondents said they were struggling financially and a similar number said they had a limiting long-term illness. Carers often have complex needs which require a holistic response from multiple agencies and actors including: mainstream employment support providers; employers; and local authority statutory provision. Sustainable, long-term employment support for carers requires a coordinated and proactive approach to partnership working from all relevant agencies and actors. This would be consistent with the current drive for a plural market response to service provision which draws on contributions from a wide range of organisations, including local government, health, the voluntary and private sectors, social enterprise and specialist providers.

Improving employment opportunities for carers: identifying and sharing good practice
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