Getting the Care and Support Bill right for young carers
As you’ll have seen if you read regularly, we are pleased that the Care and Support Bill recognises the importance of carers and getting them assessed, and ensuring they receive support. All of this is very welcome. The law as it stands is all over the place and confusing so the proposed consolidation will really help.
However there are a couple of areas which we’re not so happy about. In law, children’s issues and adults’ issues are usually dealt with in different pieces of legislation.
This means that although the Care and Support Bill will improve things for the majority of carers in England, it leaves carers who are under 18 or who are parent carers in the same situation as they are now, except it will be even more confusing.
We can’t have a situation where some carers have greater rights than others – it’s unfair and it just makes no sense . It particularly makes no sense if one of those groups with lesser rights is children.
We’ve been working hard on this and it does feel like we’re making some progress. I gave evidence to the Scrutiny Committee of the draft Care and Support Bill last week – you can read the uncorrected transcript here . The Committee was keen to hear what impact the proposals would have on all carers, and were concerned that young carers have been left out in the cold.
I explained that we need two pieces of legislation which talk to each other thereby making a joined up system. The Bill for adults should ensure that someone who is a parent has any needs for their parenting role as well as their independence and wellbeing met. But children’s legislation also needs to identify, if services are working with a child, where there is a parent who is not receiving support that is needed, so that adult services can ensure that support is provided – otherwise there will continue to be care needs which the child has to meet.
The risk, if we don’t take a strongly preventative and joined up approach, is that we just accept young people’s caring roles rather than asking the question of why they are in that role, whether they should be, and whether this is having a negative impact on them. They are children, first and foremost, and our responsibility is to ensure they have the same chance to learn, develop and thrive as any other child.
It seems like the Government is listening. Officials at the Department of Health and the Department of Education are now talking to each other to try to sort this out, and yesterday, with colleagues from Barnardo’s and The Children’s Society (we are all part of the National Young Carers Coalition) we had a positive meeting with Edward Timpson MP, one of the children’s ministers. He took on board what we were saying and has requested we continue to put together the evidence for change so that we can try to find the best way forward. This is sounding positive, although we’re a way off the solution yet.
In my job, it’s sometimes hard to see progress – often it takes years of pushing at an issue before any change. And for young carers it has taken years, but finally the moment for action has presented itself. We hope the Government will grasp this opportunity.