On Tuesday, the Secretary of State for Education Rt Hon Michael Gove MP made an announcement that the Government is going to change the law for young carers and published an amendment to the Children and Families Bill. It was a landmark moment for young carers and their families and for the National Young Carers Coalition’s (NYCC) campaign, led by Carers Trust.
It means that not only will young carers have stronger rights to assessment and support, but it will also be made clear to professionals that services should work together so that the whole family is supported. For the first time, children’s and adults’ law will be linked together so that the law is really clear and no one can say they don’t know what they are supposed to do to support young carers.
This should help to prevent children and young people from undertaking caring roles that can sometimes stop them from going to school; cause them stress and anxiety and prevent them from achieving the things they want to achieve.
Our hope is that these changes will make a difference to children’s lives because professionals in a position to recognise and support young carers will understand how caring can impact upon their lives and provide support so that young carers can thrive like other children and young people.
This is really at the heart of the issue as for too long and too often caring has not seen as something that can actually harm a child’s outcomes. Children have been left to get on with it, even if they are doing things most adults would not be expected to do.
The changes are significant in another way, because they prove that sometimes the Government does listen when young people raise their voices and charities unite and call for change.
It is true that this doesn’t happen often, but our campaign has shown that if we work together and take the time to find out what the problems are, by listening to young people and families, then we can speak clearly and confidently about why change is needed.
Since July 2012, young carers and young carers’ services across the country have contacted their MPs and written to the Government; some have met with politicians and taken part in events, tweeted or talked to their local newspaper about the campaign. This activity has been supported by all the major charities for carers and children and families who have met with the Government to work out the best way to make the changes needed.
A clear and united message is a powerful one which is why it is not a surprise that politicians from all the major political parties supported the National Young Carers Coalition’s calls for change. Some of those MPs and Peers have also championed young carer’s rights for many years – people like Barbara Keeley MP, Rt Hon Paul Burstow MP and Robert Buckland MP – and we are grateful for all the support from Parliamentarians, without whom we would not be here today.
It was also important that earlier in the year representatives from local government agreed to key principles for changing the law for young carers. The Association for Directors of Adult Services (ADASS), Association for Directors of Children’s Services (ADCS) and the Local Government Association (LGA), joined with NYCC to call on the Government to improve young carers’ lives.
For Carers Trust it’s been a long journey but for a charity who represents all carers, whoever they are, whomever they care for and whatever their experience of caring may be, we are delighted that the Government has listened to young carers and intends to give them stronger rights.
So now there is only one more thing to say and to do – thank you to all the young carers, practitioners and politicians who have made this happen. Let’s celebrate!
The latest contribution for our blog series Lost in Transition? How carers’ services are navigating the new NHS is from the CEO of a large Carers Centre in the south of England. In it they reflect on the impact of recent restructuring on NHS staff and how changes are resulting in a lack of continuity and knowledge about carers’ issues...
The new NHS has arrived and in many respects this month’s NHS feels no different to last month’s. For carers, the impact of the most significant NHS changes since 1948 could take many months, or even years, to become apparent.
But for those of us working with the NHS—as commissioners of our services and as partners in the delivery of support for Carers—the changes are already apparent.
The first appearance of change was in the response of NHS colleagues. Staff working in and with the NHS are used to change. For some careers are measured not in years or promotions, but in restructures and cycles of change. A hardy few wear the number they have survived as a badge of honour, but even they have been going around in recent months with a dazed look that says “no, this one really is different”.
The second appearance of change has been in the sudden rush of business that absolutely had to be concluded by the end of March. Staff who have been in limbo for months getting to grips with new briefs, partnerships and responsibilities in weeks. If only it had been the other way round: weeks of uncertainty followed by months in new jobs with adequate time to prepare. And any number of contracts, policies and strategies to be reviewed, cancelled, revised, updated, or if all else fails extended on the grounds that ‘business as usual’ will do for now.
For us, at least until recently, most business to do with carers has fallen into this last category—neither big enough (in monetary terms) nor important enough (in commissioning terms) to appear on the CCG radar. But this continuity is only temporary; the sudden rush of business has been accompanied by a massive loss of history and knowledge as staff have moved on to new roles or pastures and this presents us with our greatest threat.
Whilst review of all services is inevitable, the loss of continuity sees this being led by commissioners who start with little understanding to inform their thinking.
Commissioners with little experience of carers needs and strategies, reviewing services they have not encountered before, alongside carers and providers who are strangers to them if not to each other. Some will tread carefully, take a long-term view, and ensure change does not create discontinuity and fear amongst carers and providers.
But some will not and therein lies the third, and thus far most worrying, appearance of change: an emergent tendency to engage in what could generously be described as “action research” but feels more like ‘changing stuff to see what happens’.
Add in to the mix all the usual jockeying, that inevitably accompanies change and competition for funding and position, and it leaves many wondering what the next few months will really bring.
Lost in Transition? bloggers are Chief Executives of independent carers’ organisations, who are providing insights into how NHS reforms are impacting on carers’ services and carers across the country.
Watch this space for more updates about what the changes to the NHS really mean…
Note: This post is written by Claire Thwaite, Carer and volunteer at The Carers’ Resource in Skipton, where she helps to educate people about the importance of carers and to help reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness. She offers others support and information that she did not have when she first became a carer. Claire attended the Carers Week Speednetworking Event in Parliament.
My journey to London started out in familiar way – a mad scramble to get both myself and my cared for washed,
dressed and ready to leave.
The result? I missed my intended train and fretted the rest of the way about missing my connection. As my cared for pointed out when I got irate “that’s exactly what you are going to London to talk about” – Doh!
Fortunately, I arrived in time and Emma (Senior Policy & Parliamentary Officer, Carers Trust), James (Trustee from Action for Carers, Surrey) and I fought our way through the crowds and queued up to pass through security at the entrance to the Houses of Parliament.
Scanned, tagged and deemed no threat to security, we made our way into Westminster Hall with enough time for a brief tour. From that moment on I feared I would be struck dumb by the sheer awesomeness of this beautiful building – what triumph, tragedy and torment those walls could tell of.
Onward to the Jubilee Room and the initial hubbub began when the Minister for Care Services, Paul Burstow MP entered the room and everyone vied to obtain a few precious seconds of his time and maybe get a picture.
On to the real aim of the day – MPs began filtering through and I started to feel a little nervous. Fortunately, my first conversation was with Robert Buckland MP who was extremely friendly. He showed a keen interest in hearing about my experience caring for my mentally ill partner and my views on how the government needed to do more to get help for carers from the outset.
My next conversation with Conservative MP for Gosport, Caroline Dinenage was equally positive – I shared my experience of the downfalls of the recent changes to benefits, which have left me faced with having to give up my own job to support my partner back into work.
The following tete-a-tete, with an MP who SHOULD remain nameless, was brief as he sat down declaring himself “unable to learn anything today as I have been here for 30 years”. So, I saved my breath for those who had a genuine interest – and there were many, most of whom had their own experiences of caring or mental illness.
During a most interesting discussion with Barbara Keeley MP about a new Private Members Bill on social care that she is taking forward in a few weeks time, my local MP, Andrew Stephenson arrived. He was charming and shared some of his own thoughts about mental health and how Parliament is engaging with the issue.
After that, came Mark Durkam MP from Northern Ireland, with whom James and I discussed again the lack of initial support available to carers and also employment law and issues with employers understanding carers. After he bade us farewell, we realised it was 6.15 and the event had finished 15 minutes ago.
The journey home was uneventful by comparison. My only regret? It didn’t go on long enough ……. Oh, and I should have worn more comfortable shoes.