Responding to caregivers' needs - a formative evaluation

Caregiver helping elderly person in a wheelchair

There is a growing awareness in Singapore of the stresses involved in providing day-to-day care for loved ones living with disability or special needs. Caregivers face significant challenges – including social, economic and psychological stress. Efforts to strengthen caregivers’ physical and mental wellbeing are critical, enabling them to provide the best possible support for the people in their care.

In response to this need, CaringSG started Project 3i. “It’s a strategic ground-up initiative aiming to connect, enable and empower caregivers to find timely and appropriate support for themselves and their dependents, life-long,” explains Dr Lim Hong Huay, the CEO of CaringSG, an agency established to support caregivers of loved ones with special needs.

“We want to build inclusive communities in Singapore by enhancing access, support and participation of caregivers and their dependents in community living.”

Project 3i consists of three initiatives: CAREconnect, CAREbuddy and CAREwell. CAREconnect aims to establish a community network of caregivers to connect and build a natural ecosystem of support. A peer-support initiative, CAREbuddy matches trained caregiver volunteers with caregivers to engage and build resilience. CAREwell provides intensive and tailored support for caregivers facing multiple stressors.

CEI was commissioned by CaringSG to examine early indications of caregiver outcomes, establish tools for monitoring and evaluation over time, and examine implementation factors that may play a role in Project 3i’s effectiveness.

“This kind of formative evaluation is useful for developing and improving programs in the early stages of development, where there can be opportunities for refinement to enhance impact,” says CEI’s Dr Grace Chng, who has led the evaluation.

“Using a mixed-methods approach, our findings point to promising improvement in the desired outcomes, as reported by caregivers. Implementation challenges were also raised that could be addressed to improve program clarity and delivery.”

The findings show Project 3i has been building capacity within the community – upskilling grassroots leaders and caregiver volunteers in their understanding of the diversity of special needs, as well as building their competencies in connecting with caregivers.

“Partnerships with external agencies were integral to this project’s reach and success,” Grace notes. “In planning for future scale-up, it is important to consider Project 3i’s need for and reliance on volunteers. We also identified barriers requiring consistent and long-term effort by a greater network of stakeholders – such as public stigma toward those with special needs, and gender differences in carers’ help-seeking behaviors.”

CEI supported CaringSG to present key findings to Project 3i funder, the National Council of Social Service, as well as to the Alliance for Action for caregivers of persons with disabilities (a 3P partnership led by SG Enable and the National Council of Social Service).

“Piloting and evaluation of initiatives such as Project 3i are vital, as there is a scarcity of programs responding to the needs of special needs caregivers – a resilient group facing multiple challenges and strains requiring community support,” says CEI Director, Dr Cheryl Seah.

“Early monitoring and evaluation ensures we will be able to learn from the data collected to improve Project 3i, so it can best support caregivers and the loved ones who rely on them every day.”