Manthorpe J, Moriarty J, Cornes M
Practice 2015, 27, 1: 51—65
Available online 24 Oct 2014
While there is increased recognition of the role of family carers in supporting adults with social care needs, some groups of carers are overlooked or hidden from professional view. Carers of people with substance misuse problems may be among this group since they are at risk of feeling guilty and stigmatised; targeting and eligibility criteria may concentrate professionals’ activities on people with high levels of need for practical support and there may be complex family dynamics where the role of carer does not fit traditional models. This article draws on a study of carers’ workers (professionals whose role entailed a specific remit to work with carers, such as carers support workers) and family carers undertaken in four areas of England. A total of 86 interviews were conducted (late 2011–2012), of which, just over a quarter (26%) involved some discussion of substance misuse. The findings were analysed thematically. The findings from the study were later reported to a focus group of practitioners and carers with experience of drug-and-alcohol support for validation in 2014. Key themes in relation to social work practice with carers of people with alcohol and other drug problems were those of insecure funding of voluntary sector carer services; balancing generic support for family carers and specific support for certain groups of carers; and feelings among carers that the drug-and-alcohol problems experienced by the person they were supporting contributed to them feeling excluded from general carers’ support. The article concludes that drug and alcohol social workers should be alert to the implications of the Care Act 2014 and its provision for carers, and that carers’ workers should be confident in being able to refer carers to appropriate support in either general or specific settings or raise this as an unmet need if such provision is not adequate locally. Social work trainers and educators should ensure they are working within evidence-based interventions to enhance professional capacity and capability.