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Better Care for Carers – just a concept?

I’ve yet to come across anyone who would disagree with the concept of joining up health and social care. Who would? No one would want to experience being passed from pillar to post, navigating a complex health and social care system, dealing with department after department, repeating themselves time after time, all under a siege silo mentality. Clearly it would be bad for service users, carers and those who work across health and social care, wouldn’t it? Sadly though, joined up health and social care has long just been a concept.

bettercarefundSo, last year, when the government announced the creation of a ‘Better Care Fund’ in England – pooling money from health and social care – in order to force both sectors to work together to deliver joined up services, with the clear aim of reducing hospital admissions, one might have been forgiven for thinking ‘eureka’!

For carers especially, the government made sure that Health and Wellbeing Boards, the 151 local bodies who’d be responsible for administering the Better Care Fund, had to say what funding they would be providing in terms of money and services. To get the ball rolling, the government committed £130m to the Better Care Fund in order to fund carers’ breaks in 2015/16.

All sounds great, doesn’t it? Well, as often in life, you can’t take for granted good intentions or indeed concepts! And, as I’ve found by delving into the detail of 45 individual plans, all is not rosy, far from it. My report, published on 23rd June 2015: Better Care for Cares?, shows wide variation in the amount of money Health and Wellbeing Boards are committing to carers in their local areas.

Using the money committed by each local Health and Wellbeing Board and then dividing this by the number of carers in each area, using local 2011 Census data, I found that this ranged from £5.40 to £66.63. Ok, so this is an illustration, as not all carers will receive support – the overwhelming majority of carers remain unidentified – but clearly something is seriously wrong when there is a huge gap. This must be addressed by the government, and quickly.

In addition, some of the local plans didn’t provide specific examples of how they would support carers, despite being allocated the money to do so. Funding for social care services has already experienced a £1.1bn cut since 2010, increasing the pressure on the nation’s carers. While it’s good that the Better Care Fund is a step towards addressing the needs of carers and the people they care for, failure by Health and Wellbeing Boards to specify exactly how carers will be supported will result in the carers’ health being affected too.

So, where do we go from here? Well, for the Better Care Fund, this is only its first year in operation and we have had little or no word in terms of how implementation is being carried out across England. It would be a start to find out what progress has been made since 1 April 2015. From now there should also be real effort and attention given to making the fund work for those who are carers and those in receipt of health and social care – they deserve better and truly joined up services.

Read my full report on the Better Care Fund.

Be warned though it’s light on concepts, but heavy on reality.


Ben Cavanagh is Policy and Public Affairs Manager at Carers Trust


 

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June 25, 2015 - Posted by | Funding, Health |

2 Comments »

  1. Reblogged this on Sincere Blog.

    Comment by antoniasincere | June 28, 2015 | Reply

  2. Interesting article. I can’t speak to it, not living in England. But you may be aware that health and social care have been integrated here in Northern Ireland for some years now. I appreciate our funding mechanisms are different than yours. But integration assists policy decisions.

    For example, we are now in midst of major policy initiative, “Transforming Your Care”, for which my wife (service user) and I (carer) sit on a local committee.

    Happy to discuss further.

    Comment by Allan Leonard | July 10, 2015 | Reply


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