Sara Burns is one of the founding directors of Triangle and leads on the development of new Outcomes Stars. Here she explains why these new flashcards were needed and how they can help
So far, I have always managed to be in the room when we start developing a new Star. There is something of the texture, feel or nuance of a client group and sector that is communicated by more than words. One day I may have to do that on a screen. While I assume that I’ll find a way, I’d still rather not. I vividly remember standing in workshops many years ago when developing the Carers Star. We collaborated with the Carers Trust and they involved their members – mostly small, local services supporting those caring for a family member or friend. Many in the room were themselves carers or had been in the past, and it was invaluable to hear, imbibe and understand their experience. Although we always carry out a thorough literature review, much of what shapes the Stars, and makes them speak to people, is that deep, ‘bottom up’ listening to workers, service users and others.
People asked for resources tailored to young carers
Ideally, each version of the Star serves a broad sector and range of people or needs and that was our aim with the Carer’s Star. Nevertheless, most people accessing services are older adults, caring for elderly relatives, and the Star is what fits best for them. However, since we published the Carers Star, there have been requests from workers who support young carers for tools tailored to them. In this instance, young carers referring to children and young people caring for a relative at home. This came to a head when I was in Australia in early 2020. I was attending an event for the Australian government Carers Gateway roll-out the Carers Star to all services across Australia. Many services in the sector support young carers too and we agreed to develop flashcards to make the Carers Star friendlier and speak more directly to these service users as well.
Young carers can be both mature and vulnerable
Estimates of the number of young carers in the UK range from 230,000 – 700,000. Those accessing services are a fraction of the total: most are not recognised as needing support and don’t come forward due to stigma, not knowing help is out there or afraid of shaming or being taken away from their family. They are interesting and often impressive. The added responsibility can make young carers mature beyond their years and many express pride at being able to help their family members. Yet as a group they are more vulnerable than others, struggling with education, financially poor and more likely to have health difficulties. Research indicates that they worry a lot – about the health or behaviour of the person they care for, their own well-being, who will do the caring in the future, or about being late and unable to meet the demands of education. They can be isolated, with little in common with their peers.
We created flashcards with words and images relevant for young carers
Flashcards offer an accessible, visual extra resource and are already available for many versions of the Star. To develop flashcards for young carers, we carried out interviews and asked workers to consult with the young carers they supported. We also did a literature review to understand more about the specific needs and priorities for young carers. We produced draft flashcards and asked for collaboration to try these out with young people and gather feedback.
We published the new flashcards for young carers in March 2021, with areas of the Carers Star specifically focused on the aspect most relevant to young people. ‘Work and volunteering’ on the Star is represented by school and education in the flashcards. ‘Finances’ is renamed to ‘money’ and highlights worry about family finances rather than budgeting or banks. ‘Time to yourself’ features football and other leisure activities more relevant to children and young people.
We made changes to the Journey of Change underpinning the Star. Some young carers were alarmed by wording which implied that they needed to be independent of support by the top of the scales and indeed this is not appropriate for children and young people, so we removed it. They also found the end point of ‘as good as it can be’ rather depressing, so that was also changed in the flashcards to ‘things are okay’. The start part point of ‘cause for concern’ also triggered anxiety, so we shortened it to a more neutral ‘concerns’. There were other changes too, but this gives a flavour.
The final version of the flashcards for young carers tested well and can be used flexibly by workers to initiate and support a conversation about the seven Carers Star areas that is much more appropriate for children and young people. For consistency, we have also produced flashcards for the Carers Star for the core audience of adult carers. Both sets of flashcards can be downloaded by clients from their Star Online portal.
The Carers Star is an Outcomes Star for use with people caring for others, it is designed to help organisations and the carers that they support. It is one of four main Stars which can be used across the adult care sector, other Stars include the Independent Living Star, Life Star or the Older Person’s Star. Organisations that work with young carers may find that My Star or other Stars designed for the family and children sector may be more suitable for working with young people, children and carers under 18. For more information on the flashcards or the Carers Star and Stars for the adult care sector, please contact us.