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Welcome to the first edition of the new Care Alliance Ireland Research & Policy e-zine

We hope you will find the contents interesting and informative. Every two months we will bring you the latest news, policy updates and research in the field of family care. If you would like to discuss any of the contents with us or if you have any suggestions, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our Policy and Research Officer, Zoe. She can be reached by email (zoe@carealliance.ie) or by phone (086 883 4942). 
New Policy & Research Officer

Care Alliance Ireland is pleased to announce the appointment of Zoe Hughes as our new Policy and Research Officer. The post is funded through the Scheme to Support National Organisations, and it is envisaged that Zoe will work on all aspects of the policy and research work of Care Alliance. Zoe is a qualified social worker, having graduated from the Master in Social Work programme (TCD) in 2008. She holds a H. Dip. in Social Policy (UCD, 2006) and an M. Litt. in disability research (TCD, 2013). Zoe has previously worked as a social care worker, and has experience of being a family carer in her personal life. She has also worked with groups such as Empowering People in Care and The National Parents and Siblings Association on various policy projects, and with the National Institute for Intellectual Disability (Trinity College Dublin) on various research projects related to disability. Zoe is available via email (zoe@carealliance.ie) and phone (086 883 4942). 
Care Alliance Ireland is Now on Twitter

In a new initiative for 2015, Care Alliance Ireland is now active on Twitter - tweeting from @CareAllianceIrl. We’d be delighted to connect with you there, and to share up-to-date policy, research and news issues with you. By the end of the year we hope to have created a space for active participation and discussion for support organisations that support family carers. Come along and add your voice to the mix! 
Research Focus
Picture of dictionary showing the word "research"The purpose of this section of our e-zine is to communicate the latest research regarding family carers in Ireland. If you have content you would like to submit for this section - for example, a research paper your organisation has recently published - please contact Zoe directly. 
Care Alliance Ireland (CAI) Research for 2015

2015 is shaping up to be an exciting time for research related to caring in Ireland. Here in Care Alliance we are currently working with two national universities, preparing funding submissions for new and innovative research projects. We will be updating you in future editions with the progress of this research - so watch this space! 
CAI Literature Review (November 2014)
 
Front cover of CAI literature reviewHome-based care involves a number of different parties: the person in receipt of care; at least one family carer; one or more home-care support workers; and a range of other professional staff. Although caring as a whole has been well researched, far less attention has been paid to the dynamic of the relationships between the person being cared for, the family carer and home-care support workers, with an almost complete absence of Irish research. In November 2014, Care Alliance published a comprehensive literature review on this topic, which is available to download from our website. (Key findings available here. Full report available here.) Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any comments relating to this topic.  
 
“Between worlds: the experiences and needs of former family carers”: Collaborative Paper Published
 
The January issue of Health and Social Care in the Community contains a paper co-authored by the CAI Executive Director Liam O’Sullivan and colleagues Dr Patricia Cronin, Dr Geralyn Hynes, Dr Marianne Breen, Dr Mary McCarron and Dr Philip McCallion on the topic of the experiences of former family carers. The paper is available free of charge at this link. We would like to acknowledge the significant contribution of the co-authors and participants in enabling this research to be added to the growing body of research in the field of family carers in Ireland, and we welcome any feedback or comments you may have
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CARDI Research Summary

front cover of CARDI reportIn December 2014, the Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland (CARDI) launched the 2014 edition of “A Picture of Ageing Research in Ireland, North and South”. This publication provides a snapshot of the ageing research landscape across the island of Ireland, including reports of a number of projects directly concerning family carer issues. More information, along with the full report, is available on the CARDI website. (Direct download link here)
Research Paper of the Month 
 
In each edition of the e-zine, we will be bringing you some of the newest and most interesting research relevant to those working in the field of family care, along with a CAI comment on the topic. 

The paper for consideration in this edition is entitled “Clinical effectiveness of a manual based coping strategy programme (START, STrAtegies for RelaTives) in promoting the mental health of carers of family members with dementia: pragmatic randomised controlled trial” and is available via open access here

In this UK study, family carers of people with dementia were assessed for baseline measures in a number of areas including anxiety, depression, quality of life and abusive behaviour (towards the recipient of care). Half of these were then offered a new programme of support (known as START) which comprised a general wellness programme and a newly developed psycho-educational component including education on dementia, managing stress, behavioural management techniques, managing unhelpful thoughts and assertive communication techniques, among other topics. This programme was delivered by supervised but clinically unqualified psychology graduates. A control group was not changed from the standard level of support given to carers in the local area. All participants were then re-assessed to evaluate changes in the various baseline measures.

The results of the study indicate that the START programme participants were up to four times less likely to have depression than the “treatment as usual” group, and that the mean scores for all measures were lower (indicated better outcomes) for the START participants, except the quality of life indicator for the recipients of care. 

Our Comment

The results of this study are interesting and promising. While the START interventions required significant participation from carers (which may not always be practical given individual situations and the high level of caring provided by many carers), they were successfully administered by psychology graduates without clinical qualifications. Practically speaking, this equates to cheaper interventions for health providers in helping carers to increase their quality of life and in decreasing the incidence of negative mental health outcomes.  

It remains to be seen if similar interventions would be effective in an Irish context. Given the rural nature of much of Ireland, and the high incidence of family caring outside urban settings, a similar programme, delivered online or via telephone may be an efficient use of resources and prove to be a cost-effective way of improving supports to family carers. This would be 
particularly the case if delivered by psychology graduates who have not yet gained clinical qualifications - provided that quality supervision is available. 
Policy Update
Word cloud from words to do with policy and caringThis section will highlight major policy updates in the family caring sector in Ireland. If you have any questions or comments please don't hesitate to contact Zoe in Care Alliance for further details. 
National Carers' Strategy Annual Report 2014 Published by Department of Health
 
The National Carers' Strategy was published in 2012, and on the 28 January 2015 the Department of Health published the second annual report on the progression of the Strategy. This report can be found here.
 
While there are clear examples of good practice and improvements in many areas covered by the Strategy, Care Alliance Ireland remains concerned that many of the national goals and objectives have overrun their time-frames, and that many more are classified as “ongoing”. We do understand that policy improvements need to take into account the current recovering nature of the economy, but this does not nullify responsibility for implementation of the Strategy's goals.
 
We will continue to work with our colleagues across the sector and with the relevant government departments to promote implementation of the Strategy, and to support the
 ongoing forensic analysis of the report by The Carers Association.
"Integrated Care Guidance: A practical guide to discharge and transfer from hospital"
 
The Health Service Executive (HSE) recently published the Integrated Care Guidance document, which proposes a nine-step programme for hospital discharges - a key element of hospital discharge is the inclusion of the needs of family carers when planning the discharge from an acute setting of a recipient of care. The programme advocates "[involving] service users and carers so they make informed decisions and choices". The focus is on managing expectations, individualising information and the provision of an information pack.

The policy documents are available on the Care Alliance website. (Integrated Care Guidance: A practical guide to discharge and transfer from hospital and the Nine-Step Checklist) This policy replaces a 2006 policy, and was well overdue.

It is early days but we hope that this new resource will lead to a more collaborative approach between health care professionals, service users and family members who provide care. This is particularly significant in the context of the publication of the recent second report on the implementation of the 2012 National Carers' Strategy, detailed above.

We welcome any feedback you receive from people you are supporting related to their experience of this policy/practice.
International Perspectives
globe made of international flags

In Care Alliance we see the value in looking outward to see what best practice looks like internationally - we hope to use this section of the e-zine to update you with what's happening for family carers and the people who support them in Europe and further afield. 
Update on Eurocarers' Work 
 
Eurocarers is organising a number of meetings in early 2015 with a view to progressing an agreed EU-wide carer research strategy. A meeting in Dublin takes place on April 22nd. We will be updating you on further developments as they arise. 
6th International Carers Conference - Call for Papers
 
The 6th International Carers Conference will take place in Gothenberg, Sweden, from 3rd to 6th September 2015 (co-hosted by the Swedish Family Care Competence Centre, Carers Sweden and Carers UK). The conference will focus on four key themes:

1) Health, social care and well-being: how do modern societies and economies manage care in the face of demographic change and more mobile populations?

2) Combining work and care: how can we support people to manage their working and caring lives, contributing to business, economic and social sustainability?

3) Paying for care: how can we share the costs of care between the individual, the family, the community and the state? How can we ensure there is a vibrant market for care?

4) Technology-enabled care and support: how can new technologies support the delivery of care, transform the lives of individuals and families and drive economic growth?

The call for submissions is currently open, and we would encourage anyone with a suitable topic to consider submitting a 500-word abstract before the closing date of 27th February 2015. You can find more information here
Family Carer Research Group

The Family Carer Research Group, led by Care Alliance Ireland, has been in existence since 2008 and its objectives are to progress and develop an agreed research agenda within the family carer sector. It also seeks to facilitate relationship-building between NGOs, statutory agencies and academics in relation to family carer research issues. In recent times the group has been less active than in previous years, and so in 2015 we plan to reinvigorate it. The next meeting of the group will be on the 23rd June. If you, your organisation or university would like to get involved, please contact Zoe by emailing zoe@carealliance.ie or phoning her on 086 883 4942. 
Members’ Corner

If your organisation is a member of Care Alliance Ireland, and would like to share with a wider audience the innovative and interesting work you do in the area of carer research and policy, then please get in touch with Zoe about writing a piece for our “Members’ Corner”. Each issue of this e-zine will highlight the research and/or policy work of one member - a great opportunity to share what you do with a wider audience and to learn from the work of other groups! We would particularly like to hear from some of our smaller member groups - if you think you have something to share, please do contact Zoe, who is happy to help you get your message out in whatever way she can. 
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