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Funding for research into how carers can be helped to get active

We're investing £100,000 in Carers UK to conduct research into why unpaid carers are more likely to be lonely

21st June 2019

With unpaid carers reporting lower levels of wellbeing than the general population, we've teamed up with Carers UK to better understand how to use sport and physical activity to combat it.

The project, which sees us awarding almost £100,000 of National Lottery funding to Carers UK, also aims to tackle loneliness among older carers.

Decreasing activity

54% of unpaid carers report they have reduced the amount of exercise they take because of caring

The announcement comes during Loneliness Awareness Week and marks the first investment of National Lottery funding allocated by us to act on the Government’s loneliness strategy, A Connected Society, that was announced by Prime Minister Theresa May in October last year.

Research suggests that there are currently 2.5 million carers aged 55+ in England, with that number on the rise.

Unpaid carers repeatedly report poor health outcomes and providing unpaid care is also a significant risk factor for chronic loneliness.

Financial costs and physical exhaustion have previously been identified as barriers to carers being active, but this funding will allow Carers UK to further their insight into how these obstacles affect different carers and what resources or support models would be most effective.

“Sport and physical activity has a unique role in bringing people together and building communities,” said our strategic lead for health, Sarah Ruane.

  • How the project will work

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    Carers UK will gain insight through a four-stage, mixed methods approach including:

    • desk-based research on existing literature and consultation with experts in contact with unpaid carers
    • delivering the national State of Caring survey with carers nationwide
    • engaging with focus groups to understand the attitudes and barriers for inactive unpaid carers who are lonely
    • developing a pilot and test for a three-month period, which will also include an impact evaluation.

    A ‘research report’ will then be developed and shared that sets out all research and evidence gathered along with identified barriers and opportunities to tackle inactivity and reduce feelings of loneliness.

    The report will include survey and data analysis, case studies of best practice interventions tackling inactivity and loneliness in carers 55+, pilot conclusions and intervention recommendations.

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“It has the power to reduce the loneliness and isolation that so many people face in their day-to-day lives – especially seen amongst carers over the age of 55.

“We are delighted to be partnering with Carers UK and investing National Lottery funding into understanding the barriers carers face in getting active. Tackling these barriers is at the heart of what Sport England does and we hope the insight will be used to better support carers around the country into regular activity.”

This investment is in addition to £10 million of National Lottery funding we've invested into tackling loneliness in people over 55 through our Active Ageing Fund.


Carers are seven times more likely to say they are often or always lonely

It will allow for 16 months of funding for an initial insight project, and three months of pilot testing, exploring the use of physical activity interventions to address the prominence of loneliness.

And Helen Walker, chief executive of Carers UK, welcomed the support.

“Focusing on supporting a loved one can be all consuming and it can be hard to find the time to take care of your own wellbeing,” she said.

“Juggling caring with a job or looking after children means it’s easy to lose touch with friends and family.

“So it’s perhaps not surprising that research has shown carers are seven times more likely to say they are often or always lonely.

“There are huge proven health benefits to regular activity but so many carers are missing out.

“I am incredibly excited about the opportunities this funding brings to better understand the barriers that prevent carers from staying active and evaluate what support can enable carers to get active and reduce feelings of loneliness.”

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