Carers policy in Scotland – a mixed picture

Lynn Williams, Policy Officer (Scotland) at The Princess Royal Trust for Carers

Positive things are happening for carers in Scotland

Hi, my name is Lynn Williams. I took up the post of Policy Officer (Scotland) with The Princess Royal Trust for Carers in August this year.

My work involves speaking to policy and decision makers in Scotland to ensure carers’ needs across Scotland are recognised and met and that they are able to lead fulfilling lives which take account of their caring role.

I can’t believe that I’m in the fourth month at The Trust already. There’s been so much to learn over the last few months and in the course of my visits I’ve met some truly amazing people – carers and colleagues from Carers’ Centre who are completely committed to ensuring carers get the support they need.

I’ve had to learn fast, but I have had the chance to get a view of the landscape for carers in Scotland. I want to share my thoughts about where we are in policy terms. I think that we could be standing on the cusp of something exciting.

Firstly, all political parties acknowledge the contribution carers make and the public money saved because of what they do every day.

Secondly, through current policy developments – and there are lots of these – the Scottish Government acknowledges the critical nature of the support provided by carers for wives, husbands, partners, children and other family members and friends.

And over this last year, there has been work to develop a new Carers’ Strategy for Scotland, which will include specific actions for young carers.

Positive things are happening…

The Cross Party Group on Carers met again on 5 November. At this meeting, parent carers from East Renfrewshire spoke openly about the pressure of caring on their lives and the lives of their families. They talked about the vital support provided by their local Carers’ Centre. The local authority’s lack of accountability was quite clear in the stories they told.

The Cross Party Group let carers’ voices be heard in the Parliament – MSPs attending included Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s new Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, and Cathy Peattie, a carer champion and Chair of the Cross Party Group.

We met with the Scottish Liberal Democrats in September. They were very interested in the local focus and approach of Carers’ Centres in Scotland – as well as the impact of the recession and the banking crisis on funding sources accessed by The Trust and the Network of Centres.

Polly Jones, Head of Strategy and Policy for the Lib Dems, has been incredibly supportive and working with her, we secured a direct mention of the Network of Carers’ Centres and funding issues by both Ross Finnie and Robert Brown in a recent debate in the Scottish Parliament.

In that same debate, Johann Lamont’s (Labour) support for the work of Centres was clear and Des McNulty (Labour) also mentioned the work of The Trust and Carers’ Centres in Scotland.

And we are meeting Michael McMahon in early December. Michael was recently appointed to Labour’s shadow cabinet with a responsibility for local government. We will seek to raise with him some of the challenges outlined below and raise the profile of the Network.

We want to secure the support of MSPs and The Trust will continue to be directly involved in key policy developments – the new Carers’ Strategy, the planned Dementia Strategy, Reshaping Care and so on – to ensure these policies mean real action for carers; that they increase the accountability of local authorities and not lead to an increased burden for unpaid carers.

We have the opportunity to begin looking at carer entitlements; there is a political will to look at how health and social care services – including carer support, training, information etc – are funded and there is clear cross-party recognition that without the work that carers do, health and care services would collapse.

But it’s not all good news…

As Gordon has said before on here, recognition is not enough – and that message has been loud and clear as I have visited and spoken to carers and Carers’ Centre colleagues across the country.

People have opened their hearts and told me their stories, highlighting the continuing difficulties that carers face across Scotland – services such as respite/short breaks have been stopped, support packages are pulled without consultation.

I’ve been told about parent carers being threatened by social workers (yes, I DID say threatened).

Carers have talked about having to move house to access the help they need, or to get support for the people they care for.

And across the country, I get a real sense from speaking to carers that the Concordat agreed by the Government and COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) two years ago has not always resulted in improved carer support or better carer outcomes.

Recognition has not led to better lives for Scotland’s carers and there is a real risk that gains achieved over the last few years could be lost.

I don’t always feel as positive as I would like – especially as the impact of the recession on public spending is only now becoming clear and local authorities publish spending plans which mention cuts and increased charges for services.

This is why I need your help…

Your views and input can help us make sure carers get the support they need and the recognition they deserve. I need YOUR help. If you let us know what you think, we can make sure we don’t lose this opportunity to shape a better future for all of Scotland’s carers and young carers. Please comment.

Take care,



November 23, 2009 Posted by | Scotland | , , , , , , , | 7 Comments