No one-size-fits-all method for providing carers’ services online

This is a guest blog by Gigi Burgdorf, Practice Sharing Champion at The Trust and Crossroads Care.

When I first started conducting focus groups for a report about carers and the internet – How can the web support carers? published this week by Crossroads Care and The Trust – I thought I had a pretty good idea of what the research would reveal. I had a list of questions about what sites and features carers liked and what barriers might prevent them from getting online, and to be perfectly honest, I thought I could predict what many of the answers were likely to be.

New report on ‘How can the web support carers?’

But when I actually started getting feedback from carers, I was surprised at the sheer number of different viewpoints on every issue. It soon became clear that writing the report would not be a simple matter of saying, “these are the services that should be available online and here’s how to set them up.” When discussing the idea of accessing emotional support by email, it was easy to predict that opinion would be divided due to the fact that some people love email while others hate it. But the actual reasons for or against went beyond a simple case of like or dislike.

At one focus group, a supporter of the idea said that, although she didn’t love email, it would be a good way for her to access support because “no one can hear what you’re typing”. She felt she couldn’t be completely open on the phone or when a support worker came to visit because the person she was caring for could hear her from the next room, meaning she had to censor what she said to protect his feelings. A clear case for email support was made, and several other carers echoed the sentiment.

And then another carer spoke of how useful she found telephone support as it meant she could talk while doing other things like folding the laundry or cooking her children’s tea. If she wasn’t able to carry on with other responsibilities while having the conversation, then she felt she wouldn’t be able to find time to talk at all. To her, and several other carers with similar perspectives, offering email support was as good as offering no support at all.

For every type of online service we discussed, there were endless reasons for and against. It began to seem as though there were as many different opinions about carers’ websites as there were carers. And ultimately, that’s what the research showed – that because every caring situation is different, there is no one-size-fits-all method for providing carers’ services online.

So instead of trying to formulate prescriptive rules about carers’ websites, ‘How can the web support carers?’ focuses on sharing the views of carers themselves as a way of illustrating the issues providers need to be aware of when developing carers’ services online.

Ultimately, I hope the report gives readers the experience I had in the focus groups when I realised the necessity of offering choice to reach more carers, and the importance of consultation – even when you think you already know the answers.


November 9, 2011 - Posted by | Internet | , ,


  1. It is good to read that you have been listening to carers and hearing what the internet means to them. I guess, some carers will be for it, but others will say they don’t have the time, because of their difficult caring role.
    It is heartbreaking to listen to the stories from carers who contact us, who feel alone and forgotten and desperately want to get on the internet, but cannot afford to buy a laptop out of their carers allowance. On top of that there is the cost of paying for the internet server.

    What I personally find difficult is when I hear from a carer who had one of the computers donated to carers, and sent to them free of charge, by us, a few years ago, and then it has recently broken. More often than not, they can’t afford to buy another laptop, but the sad thing is, they are used to being able to do their banking on line, their shopping and chat with friends.
    Once again they face a loss, this time it is losing something they have got used to enjoying. Carers don’t get much pleasure and we know from their messages how much the internet means to them.
    When will the government listen? Surely it is not too much to ask for carers who are caring 24 hours a day, for their loved ones, and saving the county billions every year.
    In the long run, it could save money, because the carer could find their support workers on line and access their services.
    Here on Computers4Carers we will continue to ask for laptops to be donated, which undoubtedly will change the life for a carer for the better, but since the recession things have come to a standstill and we are not receiving any laptops.
    Someone needs to listen to what you have to say at the Princess Royal Trust, to get carers on the internet. I hope the government will listen, because we know that there is a great need.

    Comment by wendy chill4usCarers | November 10, 2011 | Reply

    • Just to endorse Wendy’s campaign on the computer issue.

      Once again ,an idea fostered at a grass roots level by an individual which should not have been necessary if those purporting to representing carers at a higher level had their ear ( and heart ) to simple ideas which would enhance the lives of countless carers., many of whom who may not benefit from the standard support schemes currently being run in fragmented parts of the country.

      The Internet is essential for many …. during my stint as a lone 24 / 7 carer , my only real contact with the outside world was through the Internet, I In addition , it continues to be the only place any carer can view what’s really happening out there by surfing into the independent carers sites / forums.

      Remember the days of the Carers Letter started by Cheryl ? Such an event would never had happened without the Internet and , for once , independent carers groups co-operating with each other without bickering. Even the Charities sat up and took notice as the general feeling of carers left them with no other option.

      Comment by Stephen Knoight | November 13, 2011 | Reply

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