Katherine Wiltshire examines a survey which looks at assessing
carers’ needs, while Tom Chubb discusses the findings of a report
on grandparents who care for grandchildren.

Assessing carers

A survey of carers assessments in Hampshire and Portsmouth
social services departments.

This survey investigates carers’ experiences of assessment.
Although the legislation requires social services departments to
inform carers of their right to a separate assessment, the number
of such assessments remains low. This is partly attributable to
carers not contacting departments, but also reflects resource
constraints, and the high turnover rate of carers.

The research covered those who have received a separate
assessment, those who have been assessed jointly with the service
user, and those who have never been assessed. Of those separately
assessed, the majority were women, providing substantial levels of
care in excess of the 20-hour definition of “heavy care”. Although
more than half were satisfied with their separate assessment, a
substantial minority found it of limited value. The researchers
suggest that satisfaction with the assessment is linked to whether
carers receive assistance which improves their quality of life.

The research highlights the continuum of carer assessment
arrangements, from the formal separate through to informal joint
assessments. Perhaps surprisingly, a majority of carers expressed a
preference for being jointly assessed with the user, and
appreciated having their views heard as part of the user’s
assessment suggesting that many carers are more comfortable with an
assessment which includes the cared for person.

It also raises practice issues, and challenges assumptions. Not
all carers want to be identified as carers. Some are unable to
recall their carers’ assessments, suggesting difficulty in
differentiating their carer assessment from other meetings. Not all
carers want a separate carers assessment, and crucially, not all
carers can articulate their needs as distinct from the person for
whom they care.

The Carers and Disabled Children Act requires each department to
make provision of services directly to carers themselves. It is
vital that departments re-examine their systems for assessing
carers’ needs, and in this context, this research will be a
valuable tool.

Source: The Assessment of Carers in Hampshire and
Portsmouth Social Services Departments
, Social Services
Research and Information Unit, University of Portsmouth,

Katherine Wiltshire is an independent mental health

Never too old to care

A qualitative study of grandparents who care for

In this piece of practitioner research, David Pitcher sets out
to shed more light on an important area of child care. It is a
qualitative study, that acknowledges its limitations. The main part
was generated by a lengthy questionnaire, completed by interview.
The questions derived from a substantial review of the literature,
issues identified by practitioners, and an interview with a
psychotherapist who cares for her two grandchildren.

By way of triangulation, a small selection of social workers,
children and birth parents were interviewed. Pitcher also provides
a good selection of verbatim extracts to illustrate his reporting
and to assist the reader in weighing up his conclusions.

There are 27 points in the conclusions, and a further eight
points which highlight aspects that the study does not reveal. The
conclusions are divided into sections:

– General: for example, that the majority of grandparents showed
“real delight” in their grandchild as an individual; grandparents
feel taken for granted by social services.

– Social work practice: for example, grandparents are likely to
be “shocked and stunned” by revelations of abuse within their
family and will need time and support to come to terms with

– The assessment of grandparents: for example, social workers
must recognise issues of power and the fear that grandparents feel
when engaged in the assessment process.

– Policy issues: for example, the need for clear, written
information and efficient access to practical resources to support
the placement.

What this study lacks in gloss and academic tone, it makes up
for in immediacy, passion and practice relevance.

Source: David Pitcher, When Grandparents Care, Plymouth
City Council Social Services, 2000 (01752 385688)

Tom Chubb is an independent tutor, trainer and practice

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