How do we know we are making a difference when everything feels so difficult?
This is the question for any charity that wants to make a difference to the lives of the people it supports. But how can we be sure our work is really having an impact? In this blog, to accompany publication of our annual Impact Report, Rohati Chapman explains the importance of monitoring data to evidence a charity’s impact, and highlights the progress Carers Trust is making towards achieving its strategic goals.
Rohati Chapman is Carers Trust’s Executive Director of Programmes, Policy and Impact.
Carers Trust is the national infrastructure charity for unpaid family carers. We operate, and support, a network of over 120 local carer services. And together with those local services – or Network Partners as we call them – we are directly supporting over one million unpaid carers across Britain.
Put another way, we make up the nation’s invisible ‘caring ecology’ which plays such a vital role in propping up the NHS and other statutory services.
So as an organisation, it couldn’t be more important that we get our strategy right.
That strategy, launched last year, sets out a model for how we intend to create the level of impact needed to achieve our ambitious goals and better meet the needs of carers. We are working to build a caring society, and nothing less.
We recognise the only way of turning that lofty goal into a reality is by ensuring the impact we secure for unpaid carers is both long-term and sustainable. And we know this will only be possible if we work together at scale with partners ranging from our own Network Partners to funders, commissioners and policy-makers.
To help us drive this partnership work forward we developed a Social Impact Plan that sits alongside our strategy. The plan includes embedding a range of measures throughout our network to collect evidence of impact and progress against our overall strategy.
Without scrutinising our progress in this way, we simply couldn’t be accountable to our mission. And after all, if you are not serious about making sure you’re making a positive difference as a charity, what is your point?
Monitoring the impact of our work has become even more crucial in recent years. That’s because the Carers Trust network has faced a challenging series of hurdles in our operating environment.
These have come in the form of a pandemic and cost-of-living crisis which exacerbated already adverse financial and operational contexts.
In spite of all this, the evidence we collect proves the Carers Trust network continues to make a positive difference in building a caring society. Here are just a few examples of the positive impact we are achieving against some of our most challenging goals.
Goal 1: Every carer has access to a high-quality local carer organisation
Collectively, our network of local carer organisations has retained and won more contracts than it has lost. In 2022/23, our network has an overall income of over £135m and operates in 85% of local authority areas in Great Britain.
The network now supports over 1 million unpaid family carers (that’s a 14% increase since last year), and 86% of carers said that support from their local carer organisation has improved their quality of life. We also know, however, that demand for our services is outpacing resource.
So we must work more intensively to reverse the declining trend in the number of carers the network can work with and include the use of technology. This is why we are building a Carers Trust Virtual Carers Centre, which will be available to the network from April 2024.
Goal 2: No carer is pushed into poverty or financially disadvantaged by their caring role
In 2022/23, we awarded £3.8m worth of grants to 16,849 unpaid carers. We also made available £519,000 in micro grants to an additional 2,370 unpaid carers. These grants paid for household essential items, short breaks and items to support lifelong learning and employability.
However, we believe that charities should not be a sticking plaster to cover over a dysfunctional welfare system. This is why we are committed to working in partnership with others to influence decision-makers to make positive changes for unpaid carers.
An example of that is the recent Carers Leave Act which will help more unpaid carers juggle employment and caring. Working with others to reform Carer’s Allowance remains a priority too.
Goal 3: All carers, regardless of their circumstances or stage in life, are able to enjoy life alongside their caring relationship
Statistics from the 2021 census tell us that caring intensity has increased. 1.5 million carers are now providing 50+ hours of unpaid family care every week. Having access to support from local carer services couldn’t be more critical.
In 2022/23 we saw an increase of 6% in the number of carers with a disability being supported by Carers Trust’s network of local carer services. We have a lot of work in progress to improve further our monitoring of outcomes.
We have made a good start in 2022/23 with 67% of all carers surveyed saying they have seen an improvement in their wellbeing thanks to the network’s support.
If you want to find out more about the impact of our work, and the change we are creating for unpaid family carers:
Watch a short video (in English below and in Welsh here) highlighting examples of our impact in 2022-2023.
Our evidence and our numbers count. They matter because if helps give us, partners and policy makers a picture of the scale of need and it helps improve our understanding of what works best.