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Are councils meeting their duties to support unpaid carers? A new report from Carers Trust

The Care Act, which came into force this April, offers an opportunity to transform the support given to unpaid carers.

By making councils responsible for providing the services carers need to prevent their own health being hit by the impact of their caring role, the Act takes us away from focusing solely on giving carers support when they reach “crisis” to an approach which will protect their wellbeing.

Carers Trust has been concerned to ensure that this opportunity is not missed.

This summer we contacted all councils in England asking them about their plans to help carers. Since then we’ve been sifting through the responses and have today published our findings in a brand new report.

What we have found is that there is huge variation in the way this new “prevention” duty is being met by the 147 councils we contacted but, crucially, there were some common themes.

Firstly, its clear councils are in the early stages of developing their approaches to prevention. Across the 132 councils that replied to our questionnaire, just 20% mentioned a “Prevention Strategy” or “Prevention Approach”. Of those, 40% made no reference at all to carers.

This worries us because it seems to leave carers’ rights in a state of limbo.

Across the responses we received to our questionnaire we found it difficult to determine how council policies are being designed specifically to meet the needs of carers. We found lots of examples of great support services – from information and advice to telecare, counselling to the coffee mornings – but it was rarely made clear whether these services were designed for carers or how they could be used to support the particular needs carers might have.

We also found very few examples of work being done by councils to identify carers. Just 17 councils (13% of those who replied) said they have projects designed to find and support carers. This is troubling. It means that the thousands of carers who go without support today – either because they don’t recognise themselves as a carer or don’t know where to go to to access support – will continue without help tomorrow. That weakens the ambitions of the Care Act because it means carers will not be given access to help, or even identified, until they are forced to reach for the emergency button.

Thankfully, however, we still have time to ensure that the new rights given to carers by the Care Act are implemented.

Councils are still developing their prevention strategies. They are sharing best practice, testing new ideas. Lots of the councils who replied to our questionnaire made it clear that they want to do the best they can for carers – the question, often, is how best to do that.

That’s why our report lays out a number of recommendations to councils on what they can do to help carers. It includes developing a new “prevention strategy” consulted on with carers and designed around their needs, encouraging councils to do more to identify carers, and creating a national bank of the best policies councils have developed to enhance carers’ health. By adopting our recommendations, we believe councils and central government will be able to ensure that the ambitions of the Care Act to protect carers and enhance their wellbeing will finally be realised.


Matt Hawkins is Policy and Campaigns Officer at Carers Trust


 

 

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October 21, 2015 - Posted by | Care Act, Prevention

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