In our last blog post we wrote about the start of our research project to learn more about what unpaid carers need from Carers Trust South East Wales (CTSEW) and what the barriers to carers accessing support are. We’ve now completed this phase of the research and we’re currently looking at what we have learnt and where the opportunities to improve are.
In this post Jess from the Perago team, who are partnering with CTSEW on this work, will share a bit about the process we took to setting up the research.
To recruit participants for the research we published an information page on the CTSEW website which linked off to an online form to register interest in taking part. This form asked potential participants a range of questions about themselves and their situation, which was useful for us to filter out people who didn’t quite fit the brief we were recruiting against and also it helped us make sure we spoke to a range of people in different circumstances.
It was important for us to keep the questions carers were asked in this form to a minimum, so that we didn’t put people off from getting in touch. However, this was a challenge as there were many questions we wanted to ask at this stage.
One question that we didn’t include but in hindsight would have been useful to know, was where did the carer see our research project advertised? We used a variety of methods to find carers – from sharing on CTSEW’s own social media to asking a long list of partner organisations to also spread the word. It would have been useful for us to pinpoint which of these methods was most effective to help inform our recruitment plans if we were to do something like this again.
We had an excellent response to our recruitment campaign and as a result we spoke to a really good variety of people. However, there were a few groups that our recruitment method struggled to reach, particularly older men and Black, Asian and minority ethnic carers. We need to consider some different options for ensuring carers voices from these communities are heard as we continue to improve CTSEW’s services.
The format of the research
We decided to carry out 30 minute interviews with up to 20 carers. Speaking to someone in an interview allows them to express themselves in more detail and with more flexibility than other research methods, like surveys.
We offered the participants the option of a video call or phone call, depending on their preference. We also offered slots at a range of times, from early morning to evening, to try and accommodate for their busy lives.
For some interviews we had two of us there, one to lead on the questions and one to take notes. We also recorded the audio of every interview, which has allowed us to get automated transcripts of everything the carer said. This is really useful for us as we come to analyse what we’ve learnt from the research.
Automated transcript generators have come a long way over the years but they still seem to vary in quality. The most effective ones we found are the transcript generator built into Microsoft Teams and Microsoft Word (you need to use Word in the browser for this to work).
Following good ethical practices
When carrying out any research, we need to make sure we are being as ethical as possible. There are some standard things we do on all projects around ensuring security of sensitive participant data and making sure the research participant is fully informed of what the research will involve.
For this research we were also very aware that we’d likely be touching on some difficult and emotional topics. It was therefore important that we kept both our research participants and ourselves as researchers safe.
One thing that we did, was to work out a bit of a safe guarding process. We were specifically trying to recruit carers who had been caring for at least 3 years without getting professional support for their needs as a carer during that time. Naturally this meant that we might come across people who were facing very difficult circumstances.
We felt it wasn’t right to interview people who fell into this category without first reaching out and trying to link them up with some support. We agreed a process for this with the team at CTSEW and we did end up putting it to use a few times, which worked really well.
What questions to ask
Finally but arguably most important, now that the participants are recruited and the interviews set up, what should we be asking them?
All good research starts with clear research objectives. On this occasion, the research was all about understanding why unpaid carers may not be getting professional support from an organisation like CTSEW (so that we can work on removing those barriers to accessing support). It was also about understanding what support would be most useful for carers and whether certain types of services would be more useful when you were brand new to your caring role vs after having done it for a few years already.
Based on these objectives, we wrote some more detailed questions that we could ask our research participants. We like our interviews to feel relaxed and chatty, so we use our questions as a guide but also allow the participant space to talk freely and tell their story.
As researchers we need to think about the best ways to ask these questions without accidentally biasing or influencing the participant to give a particular answer. We also need to consider how to build up to discussing the things we’re really interested in.
For example, if we’re interested in the question ‘why have they not had support for their needs as a carer?’, we may not get very useful answers if we bluntly asked it like that, as the carer may not know why or be able to articulate it well. Instead, we find it more effective to slowly build up to it for example by first asking if they’re aware of any support available, what they’re aware of, if they’ve ever tried reaching out for help before etc.
That’s an insight into the process of running a research project like this. Thanks to all the carers who were involved in the research. We’re always open to feedback and ideas of how to make our research more inclusive and how to reach more people, so please do get in touch with with any ideas at [email protected]