The information world of non-residential informal carers #NICinfo

This project will start to map the information world of non-residential informal carers (NICs) : people with caring responsibilities for someone they do not live with (for example, caring for a mother or father). The NIC may be dealing with information about an older person’s health conditions, finance, care provision, everyday matters such as delivery of meals, benefits …. and having to negotiate with a wide range of public and private sector organisations.

The investigators for this project are Sheila Webber, Pamela McKinney and Mary Crowder.

The UK has a growing elderly population, with 9.2 million people aged 65 or over at the last census (Office for National Statistics , 2013). The UK Government estimates that by 2037 there will be approximately double the number of people aged 80 or over, meaning that 1 in 12 of the population (6 million) will be of advanced age. A Department of Health survey (Health and Social Care Information Centre, 2011) gave a detailed analysis of the state of caring in the UK. Carers were identified as “having extra responsibilities of looking after someone who has a long-term physical or mental ill health or disability, or problem related to old age”. 12% (around 5 million adults) of people aged 16 or over in England were carers, and half of these (6%) were caring for someone who did not live with them.

It is these non-residential informal carers, and their experiences of finding and using information to support their elderly relatives, that form the focus for this research.

Finding information and accessing it are “critical issues” for older people and this is exacerbated by the fragmentation of the care sector (Gilroy, 2005). There is a dizzying array of health care professionals, agencies, charities and services involved in the care of elderly people in the UK. So much so that “it is almost impossible for any single person to have a holistic view of the services they (NHS & Social Services) provide because both organisations are so vast and engaged in so many activities for different client groups with different problems” (Katsaliaki et al. 2005). Research has shown that as people get older they increasingly rely on health professionals and family carers for information (Asla et al. 2006.

In this project we will explore perceptions of stakeholders who support elderly people, and/or support those who help care for them. We aim to surface the challenges faced by carers in navigating the information environment. We will interview the stakeholders to identify ways in which NICs are already supported, find out what the stakeholders perceive as problems, and ask them about their understanding of the NICs’ information needs.


Asla, T., Williamson, K., & Mills, J. (2006). The role of information in successful aging: The case for a research focus on the oldest old. Library & Information Science Research, 28(1), 49-63.

Gilroy, R. (2005). Meeting the information needs of older people: a challenge for local governance. Local Government Studies, 31(1), 39–51. doi:10.1080/0300393042000332846

Heath & Social Care Information Centre. (2011). Survey of carers in households 2009-10. Retrieved from

Katsaliaki, K., Brailsford, S., Browning, D., & Knight, P. (2005). Mapping care pathways for the elderly. Journal of Health Organisation and Management, 19(1), 57–72. doi:10.1108/14777260510592130

Office for National Statistics. (2013). What does the 2011 census tell us about older people? Retrieved from