Sustainable Care Research Programme

Sheffield investigators

Professor Mark Hawley

Professor Luc de Witte

Professor Sue Yeandle


Zuyd University, Netherlands

University of Birmingham

Kings College London

Swansea University

University of Stirling

Ulster University

University of Alberta, Canada

Alzheimer Scotland

Carers UK

Carers Scotland

Carer Positive

Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Population Ageing

University of Western Australia

University of Toronto, Canada

Ontario Shores University, Canada

Zhejiang University, China

University of Jyvaskyla, Finland

University of Auckland, New Zealand

University of Ljubljana, Slovenia

Linnaeus University, Sweden

University of New South Wales, Australia

Macquarie University, Australia

McMaster University, Canada

Zittau-Goerlitz University, Germany

University of Vechta, Germany

Italian National Institute for Health and Ageing

Japan Institute for Labour Policy and Training

Japan Lutheran College

Bergen University, Norway

Jagiellonian University, Poland

University of Warsaw, Poland

National Research Council, Spain

National Yang Ming University, Taiwan

Care England

The Carers Resource


D Health Europe

Digital Care & Health Alliance

Employers for Carers

Equality and Human Rights Commission

Skills for Care







About the project

With an ageing population, shortages of staff in home and residential care, and growing reliance on unpaid carers, the question of how to resource and deliver social care is a critical issue facing society today.

The Sustainable Care Research Programme, led by Professor Sue Yeandle from the University of Sheffield's Department of Sociological Studies, and bringing together academics from seven universities, will take an international approach to identifying solutions to this crisis.

Working with an extended network of international academic partners in 15 other countries, the project will take a future-oriented and internationally comparative look at current approaches to the care needs of adults living at home with chronic health problems or disabilities, examining these in the context of care systems, care work and care relationships.

Researchers will investigate how these approaches can be made economically and socially sustainable while still delivering positive outcomes for care users, for families and carers and for care workers.

Professors Mark Hawley and Luc de Witte from CATCH will be investigating the potential of technology to be one of these solutions. Two PhD studentships will be associated with this project.

PhD project one – Technology for sustainable care at home: A future-oriented study

This will focus on exploring the potential role of technologies in the development of sustainable care systems, using a future-oriented perspective and taking a broad view of advances in technology. Advanced technology offers promising solutions to the growing care gap, but the place of technology as a source of sustainability for the future is far from clear (1).

This PhD will collect and analyse data relevant to the development of a roadmap for the future development of a specified technology (2). It will consider its potential for sustainable wellbeing in care at home, address questions of practical, attitudinal and ethical acceptability as well as design and how the technology can be embedded into care systems and optimised to contribute to system sustainability. It will be part of the WPA3 work with stakeholders to identify technologies capable of addressing the needs of older people living at home.

Indicative research questions:

  • To what extent, and why, can the specified technology address challenges in supporting older people at home?

  • Does international evidence support the case for incorporating this technology into care systems?


(1) Marasinghe, K. M. (2016) 'Assistive technologies in reducing caregiving burden among informal caregivers of older adults: A systematic review', Disability and Rehabilitation: Assistive Technology, 11(5), pp. 353–360.
Chi, N. C. and Demiris, G. (2015) 'A systematic review of telehealth tools and interventions to support family caregivers', Journal of Telemedicine and Telecare, 21(1), pp. 37–44.
Hogenbirk J, C., Liboiron-Grenier, L. and Pong, R. W. (2005) How can telehomecare support informal care? Examining what is known and exploring the potential: Final report. Home and Continuing Care Policy Unit: Health Canada.

(2) Specific area negotiable, but likely to include aspects of robotics. Applicants for this PhD should identify an area or areas of interest which they wish to develop.

PhD student two – Combining care and paid work for carers of people living with dementia: How can technology help?

This will explore the potential role of technologies in supporting the sustainable wellbeing of working carers (3), a group often facing tough choices between their work and care responsibilities (4). Technology holds the potential to support working carers in fulfilling their dual roles by supporting them in situations where they cannot be present, and with care coordination.

The aim of this PhD project is to use a participatory design approach to identify and map technologies, currently available and in development, which have the potential to help working carers of people living with dementia to reconcile their paid work and unpaid caring responsibilities. Rather than identifying technologies which support caring in general, the project focuses on the intersection of the caring with the work sphere.

The intended outcome will be the basis of a self-help tool which highlights the functionality of technologies (both existing and in development) and their potential to address the challenges of combining paid work and unpaid care by mapping technologies onto identified work-care reconciliation challenges. This toolkit can then be used by working carers themselves, employers, carer and dementia support organisations, and local authority adult social care departments in the process of carers assessments, to identify technologies which can help working carers of people living with dementia in their individual situation.

Indicative research questions:

  • What do working carers of people living with dementia experience as particularly challenging when combining work and care and what are needs or priorities for support which they articulate?

  • Which technologies do working carers of people living with dementia use and which challenges of combining work and care do they aim to address with these technologies? What are their experiences with these technologies?

  • How does the level of job control, more specifically carers' control over their work hours, workplace, and breaktimes, impact on the challenges they face, the support they need and their ability to use technology at work?

  • Which of the identified work-care reconciliation challenges and solutions/supports can be addressed/improved via technology and which technologies, currently available or in development, have the potential to address the identified work-care reconciliation challenges?

  • What are the views of working carers, people living with dementia, employers, and care workers of identified technologies?

  • Which design aspects do stakeholders using the self-help tool require to ensure it is usable and useful in practice?


(3) 'Working carers' are people in paid employment who also provide care and support for a relative or friend who needs assistance in old age, or has a long-term condition or disability.

(4) King, D. and Pickard, L. (2013) 'When is a carer's employment at risk? Longitudinal analysis of unpaid care and employment in midlife in England', Health and Social Care in the Community, 21(3), pp. 303–314.
Pickard, L. (2004) Caring for older people and employment: A review of the literature. London: Audit Commission.
Yeandle, S., Bennett, C., Buckner, L., Fry, G. and Price, C. (2007) Managing caring and employment, CES report no. 2. London: Carers UK.