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The Future of Unpaid Care in Scotland: Headline Report and Recommendations

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2. Methodology

Our approach was qualitative and based on the open-ended narrative exploration of a number of key themes agreed with Care 21. The stories of carers were collected through focus groups, group interviews and in-depth individual interviews. The research was conducted across five regions, i.e. the Highlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Fife and North and South Lanarkshire, so we were also able to explore how unpaid carers' experiences differ in urban and rural areas.

The experiences of carers are diverse: they vary widely in terms of who they care for, their ages, their backgrounds and the length of their caring experience. To account for these differences, we engaged in specific consultation with carers from BME groups, elderly carers, young carers and carers with mental health issues and learning difficulties. The report emphasises the main issues of relevance to these different groups.

A semi-structured topic guide, appended to this report, guided the focus groups and in-depth interviews with carers. In the case of carers with mental health issues and learning disabilities, the topic guide was slightly adapted according to the challenges posed by engaging these groups of carers. The purpose of a semi-structured topic guide was to ensure that the discussion covered the themes agreed with the Scottish Executive, but also to provide flexibility for incorporating issues specific to respondents in different situations.

2.1 Focus groups

Ten focus groups were initially set up, comprising carers across a range of cohorts, i.e. young carers in urban and rural locations, employed carers in urban and rural locations, unemployed carers in urban and rural locations, elderly carers in urban and rural locations, and black and minority ethnic carers.

The organisation of the focus groups was as follows:

  • Group 1, BME carers, Glasgow
  • Group 2, BME carers, Edinburgh
  • Group 3, elderly carers, Glasgow
  • Group 4, elderly carers, Nairn
  • Group 5, young carers, Irvine
  • Group 6, young carers, Isle of Skye
  • Group 7, carers in paid employment, Edinburgh
  • Group 8, carers in paid employment, Helmsdale
  • Group 9, carers not in paid employment, Dumfernline
  • Group 10, carers not in paid employment, Dingwall

Table 1 below provides a breakdown of the gender of participants in each of the focus groups.

Table 1: Number and gender of participants for focus groups

Focus group

Gender

Total

Female

Male

Group 1

8

2

10

Group 2

6

3

9

Group 3

6

4

10

Group 4

6

3

9

Group 5

3

1

4

Group 6

5

3

8

Group 7

8

1

9

Group 8

4

0

4

Group 9

6

0

6

Group 10

6

4

10

Total

58

21

79

In total, 79 carers took part in the focus groups. Participants were selected through an independent recruiter, to ensure that we did not only engage carers who were supported by specific voluntary and statutory organisations.

2.2 Mini discussion groups

We also conducted three mini-groups, two with BME carers with language support needs and one with carers with learning disabilities. A total of 13 carers took part in mini discussion groups.

The mini discussion groups were held in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and were as follows:

Group 1, BME carers with language support needs, Edinburgh
Group 2, BME carers with language support needs, Edinburgh
Group 3, Carers with learning disabilities, Edinburgh

Table 2 below provides a breakdown of the gender of participants in these groups.

Table 2: Number and gender of participants of mini-groups

Focus group

Gender

Total

Female

Male

Group 1

3

0

3

Group 2

4

0

4

Group 3

4

2

6

Total

11

2

13

2.3 In-depth interviews

In-depth interviews with carers with mental health issues and learning difficulties were conducted across the Highlands, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Fife and North and South Lanarkshire. The majority of interviews took place in the central belt of Scotland, in Glasgow, Edinburgh and the surrounding areas of East Kilbride and Tullibody. Of the 59 respondents, 42 were women and 17 were men. Respondents for these interviews were contacted through a range of sources, including returns of the Carer Survey sent out as part of this project, carers' support organisations, and through snowballing. Leaflets outlining the aims of the project were also circulated at events, inviting people to take part in the research.

Carers with mental health issues and learning difficulties were particularly challenging to identify. Carers with these types of special needs are particularly isolated and difficult to locate. Even with the help of advocacy organisations, people were at times unable or unwilling to take part in the project even when confidentiality was assured. Through the fieldwork, it became apparent that carers with mental health issues and/or learning difficulties were not keen to talk about their experiences with people they considered strangers. In order to manage this issue we made efforts to ensure that participants felt comfortable and safe in the interview or group environment, with additional access to advocacy organisation staff or other support throughout the interview and discussion group process.