The Census reveals more carers than ever – and the cash still isn’t getting through
We’ve spent the last three years trying to keep track of the £400 million over four years that was given by the Coalition Government to support carers. It hasn’t been easy.
The information has been difficult to get hold of, and lack of definitions in many places means it’s been like adding up apples and oranges – often you’re not sure whether you’re talking about the same thing or not. But we persevered because we were outraged that the although the argument for carers had been won, the cash was still not getting through.
Last week, on the same day that the census revealed the number of carers has increased from 5.2 million in England and Wales in 2001 to 5.8 million in 2011, we published a report – Carers breaks on the brink? – looking at what’s been done with this cash.
Over the last three years, we have repeatedly expressed concerns that this money is simply not getting through to carers on the front line. Localism means that decisions are rightly made by local agencies — hopefully reflecting the needs of local people. “Hold the PCTs to account,” we were told, “because that’s how local democracy should work.”
The NHS Operating Framework for 2012-13 laid out clear guidelines stating that Primary Care Trusts should publish plans and budgets, amongst other things, for how they intended to support carers.
It wasn’t difficult to comply with. Admittedly, definitions of carers’ breaks wer unclear, but all a PCT needed to do was define this for themselves, then say how much they were notionally supporting. But still, our survey of 50 PCTs found that most didn’t meet all of these requirements, and 14 out of 50 hadn’t met any at all.
This doesn’t mean all of those were not providing any support for carers at all – it means that we can’t properly find out about it. Local accountability depends on being able to get the information to challenge decision makers.
There is also some question about the information published in some areas. Some say they’re spending a certain amount, but the local carers say they have no idea how the PCT has come up with that figure. But at least then there’s a place for the discussion to start.
Carers and carers’ organisations need to be able to challenge the information and ask what it means, but without any information we’re left without a voice in the debate.
This is the last year of the NHS Operating Framework which provided these reporting structures.. From 2013 onwards, other than the limited elements which are in the new mandate for the NHS Commissioning Board, we don’t know whether there will be any specification on what new Clinical Commissioning Groups should be doing to support carers.
If local commissioners decide it’s not important, the hard won funding for carer support could all disappear.
To support us, Paul Burstow MP, the former Care services Minister, has put down an Early Day Motion supporting our findings and agreeing with Carers Trust that carers could be better supported if Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) worked with local authorities, carers and local carers organisations to refresh local carers strategies and to ensure carers benefit from the funding.
Write to your MP and ask them to support EDM 848 on Access and Funding for Carers Breaks - we need as much support as we can get.