National study launched into effects of social service closures on older people

A new national study has been launched to look at the impact of social service closures due to coronavirus, on the lives of older people, people with dementia and unpaid carers.

An expert team of NHS, voluntary and academic collaborators from across the country have been brought together to conduct this novel UK wide study.

The study includes Lancaster University, the University of Liverpool, UCLAN, University of Bradford, and UCL, and it will examine the impact of self-isolation on the wellbeing of older people, those living with dementia and unpaid carers.

Dr Siobhan Reilly, Senior Lecturer from Lancaster University, said: “We know certain groups are likely to be affected differently so it is important that as many people take part in this research as possible.

“We want to have representation from all groups and all parts of society. The more participation we have, the more relevant our results will be”.

People living with dementia and older people can be heavily reliant on accessing support groups, social activities in the community, befrienders, day care centres, or singing and dancing groups to stay socially active and get the support that health care services cannot provide.

However, due to Covid-19 these face-to-face services are now temporarily closed, leaving huge gaps in support and care needs.

Dr Clarissa Giebel of the University of Liverpool said “We want to hear from older people, unpaid carers and people living with dementia, either alone or in a supported context. They can have their voice heard in our research and the results will be put in front of decision makers.”

The study can be done online or via the phone and requires a commitment of 20-30 minutes three times over a period of 12 weeks and closes to new registrations on 31 July 2020.

The project has already gained support from key service providers such as the National Museums Liverpool’s award-winning dementia awareness programme – House of Memories is sharing the new study through its networks across the UK to reach people living with dementia, and their carers.

Carol Rogers, Director of House of Memories at National Museums Liverpool said: “This vital research by the University of Liverpool will helps us to fully understand the impact of Covid-19 on families living with and affected by dementia during this difficult time of social isolation. We want to extend the reach of this study to our audiences to ensure their voices are heard and consider how we can adapt House of Memories’ programme based on the research.”

Anna Gaughan, Chief Executive at Life Story Network said: “As from April 1st local authorities have the power to implement more stringent cuts- further reducing their support for unpaid carers under the emergency Covid-19 Act.

“Taking part in this vital research and sharing your experience of the impact of these cuts will help inform the six-month review that the government has committed to undertaking. We want to ensure that the voice of unpaid carers of people with dementia still continues to influence policy, research and practice during this critical time.”

The project is being conducted in partnership with a large number of NHS Trusts and front-line care support providers, including Mersey Care NHS Trust, North West Boroughs NHS Trust, Lancashire & South Cumbria NHS Trust, Tide Carers, The Brain Charity, National Museums Liverpool, SURF Liverpool, Lewy Body Society, Liverpool and Wigan Dementia Action Alliance, Sefton Older People’s Forum, and Me2U Day Care Centre.

The study is funded by the University of Liverpool’s Covid-19 Strategic Research Fund and supported by the National Institute for Health Research Applied Research Collaboration North West Coast (NIHR ARC NWC).

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