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New Year, new opportunities, same priorities

Do you have a New Year’s Resolution? At Carers Trust we’ve been thinking about our plans for 2016 and although we will want to try out new ways of delivering our campaigns, at the heart of what we do will remain the same priority: supporting unpaid carers.

And as we scan ahead into 2016, we have plenty of new opportunities to do just that. Continue reading

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February 2, 2016 Posted by | Budget, Care Act, Scotland, Wales | Leave a comment

Supporting those with personal budgets

You are more likely to be satisfied with the support you receive if you get a personal budget (PB) or Direct Payment (DP) rather than a council organised day or home care. This supports the popular and Government led drive to increase the use of personal budgets.

However, if you delve in the results from the survey of adult social care users, a different story emerges. People in residential care are actually the most satisfied with the services they receive and they score highest on most of the questions answered, going against common perceptions.

But the real surprise is that people receiving council organised day care or home care are more likely to say they have adequate control over their daily lives compared to people using personal budgets or Direct Payments. Remember, the whole point of PBs and DPs is that they are meant to give people more control.

Furthermore, people in day care are more likely to have desired levels of social contact than holders of personal budgets or Direct Payments. They are also more likely to be spending time doing they want to. The question is how can you read these results and still assert that day care centres were ok for the 1950s, but people have moved on and want something different in the 21st century.

One answer I heard was that day care centres have moved on too, and are radically different from what they were like in the 1950s. Another possibility is that the value of personal budgets people are receiving does not allow them to purchase services similar to what they were getting from the council. One council recently offered a personal budget of £700 p/a when previously they were providing 12 weeks of residential nursing care, which would cost at least £7000.

I put the results from the survey to Paul Burstow MP (Minister for Care Services), asking how we should reflect upon these. I wondered whether they would knock his confidence in the benefits of people having a personal budget. They didn’t. His explanation for the results was that there needs to be greater choice of support providers meaning personal budget holders would have more choice about what they do with their PB and would therefore lead to improvements in satisfaction, levels of control and doing what you want to be doing.

My own opinion is that there is something in all three answers, but it has led me to believe that people must still have the opportunity to take part in group activities such as day clubs and that we must work harder to support those with personal budgets.

What do you think?

Gordon

October 18, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Uncategorized | , , , | 2 Comments

Bins and council tax trump social care for Tories

Whereas Labour are still deciding their priorities, the Conservatives appear to have nailed theirs to the mast. And social care isn’t there.

Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government began their conference by announcing that

Eric Pickles MP with David Cameron

Eric Pickles MP with David Cameron

£250m had been found which would be given to councils for weekly bin collections. Funding for social care comes from councils, and funding for local authorities comes from the Department of Communities and Local Government. So rather than giving this money to councils to spend on social care, the Government are saying it has to be spent on bin collections.

This Government, and Pickles in particular, has been adamant that decisions must be made at the local level, and councils given freedom to decide. Yet, Pickles is not making this £250m available for whatever councils think it could best be spent on; it is only available for councils who want to move to weekly bin collections.

Of course, some councils already run weekly bin collections, and a couple of councillors at the Conservative conference were left wondering whether they should stop that so that they can claim some of the £250m to reintroduce what they are already doing.

This was followed by George Osborne’s announcement that Government had found an extra £800m to give to councils who committed to freeze their council tax rates. Again, this newly found money is not available for councils to spend as they see best but can only be used to compensate councils who do not increase council tax rates.

Compare this focus on bins and council tax to social care. I asked Lord Freud (DWP Minister) and Greg Hands MP (Parliamentary assistant to George Osborne) about how important it was to implement the Dilnot Commission’s recommendations on social care but received no answers. I asked Maria Miller MP (Minister for Disabled People), who said meeting the challenge of our population’s changing demographics was one of our biggest, but instead of discussing Dilnot’s report, focussed on how introducing the right to request flexible working for all will help carers trying to juggle work and care.

Andrew Lansley in his speech did mention the £400m given to the NHS to support carers, but there was no mention of social care or Dilnot. When asked about it, no firm commitments were forthcoming. Understandably, Lansley is focussed on getting his Health Bill through Parliament but we must get the Conservatives to see social care as a priority.

Instead of commitment to reforming social care, there is a reticence emanating from Conservatives. It usually starts with talk of implementing Dilnot being very expensive and a lot of work still to be done. Implementing Dilnot is £1.7bn per annum; the Tories have just found, out of nowhere, £1.05bn for bins and council tax.

Take care

Gordon

October 5, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Conservatives, David Cameron, Labour, Social Care | , , , , , | 7 Comments

What can a penny do?

Would you rather have £10 given to you today or a week’s time? Most would say today because we generally value things we currently have more than things we may get in the future. We want it now.

Sometimes the value can change quite dramatically if it’s a Scottish £10 note with English shopkeepers often refusing to take it, thinking it is worth nothing. And yet, if you offered that £10 to a homeless person, they would value it much more than even I (a thrifty Scot) would value that £10.

The value of £10 can change dramatically depending on what it enables the ocoinswner to do with it.

This is most visible when we receive letters from carers we’ve supported who have told us what it has enabled them to do. Small amounts of money can have a big impact on their lives with words and phrases like “heartfelt thanks”, “simply wonderful” and “no longer at my wits end” being used.

I look at the amounts involved and know that receiving such support would make much less of a difference to me. It’s a horrible process having to decide which carers you can support and which you cannot but unfortunately we, like everybody else, have limited funds. You have to judge where the money will have the greatest value.

The debate has started about cutting taxes to put more money into people’s pockets to increase spending to hopefully grow the economy. But the value of cutting taxes or a growing economy is dependent on who benefits from it and what does it enable them to do.

The balance has to be found between enabling people to build wealth to invest and spend, and enabling people to have a basic standard of living. My grandfather (a Conservative) used to describe a man he knew who would begrudge an extra penny on income tax. “A penny?! It’s only a penny. What difference would it make to you?” he would ask. The reply would be “It’s my penny, and I want to keep it”.

We must realise that a penny is not important in itself, but what it enables a person to do is. For carers, it can mean having a washing machine that works (desperately needed if caring for somebody incontinent), a ramp into the house, a first break in years or seeing a counsellor because the person you care for is dying. That seems pretty important to me.

Gordon

August 17, 2011 Posted by | Benefits, Budget, Scotland | , , , | 1 Comment

Carers do meet the social care needs

You may have seen media reports last week about 800,000 people not getting help with social care. This was based on an Age UK report that estimated there were 2 million older people in England with care related needs and 800,000 of these were not getting formal support from public or private agencies.

The widespread media reports implied that there were 800,000 people whose needs were not being met and levels of ‘unmet’ need is a cause for concern amongst politicians and decision makers. Of course, one of the biggest worries has been that if people are not being supported by councils or other agencies, then how do you know how many of them are there? This is a problem facing the Dilnot Commission which is considering the future funding of social care in England.

The answer of course lies with carers. Because we survey who is providing care, then you can work out how many people have care and support needs.

Going from the census 2001 and last year’s household survey, there are approximately 4.8m people providing care in England. The household survey found 37% were sole carers and 63% were sharing it with another person. This would equal approximately 3.2m people with care and support needs being supported by carers in England alone. Plus, there would be adults being cared for by young carers that were underestimated in the census and not covered by the household survey.

It is not that needs are going unmet, they are being met, just not by people who are paid to do so. The vast majority of need is being met by carers. They are the ones who are there when social services or private care agencies are not.

When we launched our Give Carers a Break campaign, Peter Hay, President of Association of Directors of Adult Social Services addressed the politicians and carers involved. He said that because it is carers who are the first ones providing care and we rely on them so much, then the NHS’s £400m for carers has to be spent on carers and prioritised first ahead of other needs.

Take care

Gordon

PS: Carers need continued support. Don’t forget to tune-in to BBC Lifeline’s appeal for carers on BBC One on June 19th at 4:45 pm (if you are in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland) and 5:15 (if in Scotland). Please do spread the word.

June 6, 2011 Posted by | breaks for carers, Budget, Carers Strategy, Social Care | , , , , | 1 Comment

Give carers the break they deserve

I need to ask you a favour.

In 2009,The Labour government did a good thing by including £50m in allocations to English Primary Care Give Carers a BreakTrusts  (organises your local health services) to increase support for carers. In 2010, they included £100m. These were good policies let down by poor implementation as our research showed only 25% of the total £150m was used to increase support for carers.

The new Coalition Government has built on the good policy by including £400m over 4 years in the allocations to PCTs to focus on providing breaks for carers. They have also requested that each Primary Care Trust works with local authorities and carers’ organisations to publish policies, plans and budgets to support carers. This is important because it means PCTs can be held to account for how they spend the £400m.

But this is where I need your favour.

In this era of local decision making, it is local people who must hold PCTs to account. It is local people who must ask their PCTs whether they have spoken with carers and carers’ organisations about providing breaks. It is local people who must request to see the PCT’s policies, plans and budgets to support carers. And if you don’t get answers from your PCT, write to your MP and councillor or visit them at their surgery and explain to them why you are concerned that your PCT is not doing what it should to support carers.

It doesn’t matter if you’re not a carer, I still need this favour from you. And with one in ten people currently providing care and three in five people becoming a carer at some point in their life, it is likely that whether your PCT uses this money to support carers or not may affect you or your friends and family now or in the very near future.

I, and over 5 million carers in England, need your help to persuade PCTs that breaks for carers are not a luxury; that they are desperately needed by people who sacrifice so much to care for others that they often reach breaking point, jeopardising their own health and are simply crying out for some help and a break.

Yesterday in Parliament, we launched a campaign supported by MPs from all parties called Give Carers A Break. Our website has information on this campaign and how you can get involved.

Please, help us to give carers a break.

Thank you

Gordon

Further Information:

May 24, 2011 Posted by | breaks for carers, Budget, Young carers | , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Carer Votes Count in Scotland

Note: The following blog post has been written by Lynn Williams, the Policy Officer (Scotland) for The Princess Royal Trust for Carers.

So a few weeks into the election campaign in Scotland and already the issues affecting Scotland’s 657,000 unpaid

MSPs pledging support for carers

carers have featured in most party manifestos as well as in the press. The BBC “Big Debate” on Living Longer had carers in the audience – Caroline gave a very moving insight into her journey as a carer for her parents.  The launch of specific manifesto pledges for unpaid carers by the SNP at the Glasgow South East Carer Centre also picked up some coverage.

Before looking at what parties are committing to (and we know that a commitment doesn’t necessarily mean that something will actually happen!) it’s important to review where we are first.

Over the last four years, political parties have delivered a lot of warm words about the contribution of unpaid carers – and young carers.  There have been some policy gains in the last four years around additional investment in respite, funding which has benefitted the work of carers’ organisations, and the publication of the new Carers and Young Carers’ Strategies in Scotland. So, some good news.

What is becoming increasingly clear however – from contacts on Facebook (See our Carers Votes Count Facebook pages;  from feedback from Carers Centres who are on the frontline and from colleagues in other carers’ organisations is that unpaid carers and their families and are at the hard end of local cuts. The campaign pages for Scotland ACT Now for Autism provide stories from across the country and parent- carers open their hearts about the daily fights they endure for their children.

This is before we even get to the impact of the welfare reform agenda coming from Westminster to a town or city near you. So from the perspective of Scotland’s carers and from the perspective of The Princess Royal Trust for Carers – warm words are fine; promises are fine – but it’s now time for action.

So what are the parties actually saying? We have published summaries of the four main Scottish parties’ manifestos and the pledges that they have made.

So what does this all mean?

The answer is – not a lot. But manifestos give some indication of the level of commitment to unpaid carer and young carers. They can also help carers to decide who to vote for especially if they remain undecided.

What happens after the election is more important – what commitments actually become reality and do they make any REAL difference to the lives of carers such as Clare Lally, Sandra Webster, Teresa Catto Smith and others who are regularly posting on our election Facebook pages – Carers Votes Count.  Their stories tell us that the political parties still have a long way to go.

A number of carers have told us that they remain undecided as to how to vote and that they want to see specific pledges which will help improve their lives.  There may well indeed be up to 657,000 votes up for grabs! Therefore, until the next election blog, please continue to lobby your candidates, attend any local hustings events and please contact us here or via Facebook with the issues that affect you as carers or young carers in Scotland.

Lynn

April 19, 2011 Posted by | Benefits, breaks for carers, Budget, Carers movement, Carers Strategy, General Election, Scotland | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Looking Back at the Year 2010

My first highlight of 2010 actually started in December 2009. I got a call from somebody at the Lib Dems asking if I could produce various proposals regarding carers for their manifesto. Fast forward to February 2010, and the Lib Dems announce their election manifesto will include £500m to support carers.

March saw a roundtable discussion with HRH The Princess Royal, carers and Ministerial representation from the three main parties – Phil Hope, Stephen O’Brien, and Paul Burstow. A year after we started warning the Government that their £150m to the NHS for carers wasn’t being spent on carers, Phil Hope belatedly pledged that Labour would act.

But he never got the chance to act as an election was called and for the first time, the three leaders debated live on TV. And these produced in public awareness terms, the moment of the year.

It was near the end and there was a question about caring for an elderly population and Clegg answered that this means we must support carers. But more importantly, Brown and Cameron felt that they had to speak about carers – it had become an issue that party leaders had to talk about. And they did again during the second TV debate.

Now you may say talk is cheap and often leads to nothing, but in May when the new Coalition’s Programme for Government was published, proposals to increase support for carers was in there when other issues that were not. That Clegg and Cameron had made public pledges about carers helped to make this happen.

It was this Coalition pledge that led in November to £400m over four years being announced to increase support for carers. Importantly, the Government have instructed the NHS to work with local carers’ organisations to publish policies, plans and budgets of how they will support carers. This could make sure the money is spent on carers as it should be.

The last highlight was in the NHS Outcomes Framework, published 20th Dec in time for Christmas. The NHS will be measured for their ability to help carers enjoy a quality of life that we all expect to have. Finally, the NHS will have to take an interest in the millions of friends and relatives who take on caring roles after discharge from hospital.

These are my highlights from 2010, but I know that despite progress there will be carers whose situations will be untouched by pledges and improvements. 2011 will be a challenging year and we’ll be working hard to make sure we keep moving forward and that more carers get the support they need and deserve.

I hope you all have a good Christmas and New Year, and that Santa is good to you of course. Thank you for all of the comments on the various posts this year; the discussions are useful for us and I hope interesting for readers. Probably more so than my blog!

Take care all

Gordon

December 23, 2010 Posted by | Budget, Carers Strategy, Conservatives, David Cameron, General Election, Labour, Liberal Democrats | | 6 Comments

Preventing Crisis for Scotland’s Carers – So where do we go next?

Note: This is the final of the three-part blog post by Lynn Williams, the Policy Officer for Scotland at The Princess Royal Trust for Carers.

Well, for an initial investment of just £1 million, this project directly supported over 3,000 unpaid carers – it would cost at least £30 million to replace the care they provide if they remained unsupported in their caring role.  That’s a pretty significant return on the initial investment. To top that, the support workers trained and worked directly with some 4,000 health and social care professionals.  Bear in mind that the budget for NHS Education Scotland sits at just under £400 million alone.

The project recommendations highlight the need for more effective working between health and social care and unpaid carers are the lynchpin of the overall support and service delivery infrastructure.  We have been fighting for political parties to recognise and deliver clear policy commitments which ensure unpaid carers are recognised and better supported and there is no doubt that the Moffat work will help us demonstrate the value of doing this.

The £70 million Change Fund outlined in the draft budget could be used to drive real change in discharge planning and in improving how professionals and services are planned and delivered.  It will be focussed on helping health and social care services work together to maximise people’s independence and wellbeing.  Those involved in planning how this Fund will be spent – in a year – could begin by looking at the outcomes of the Moffat project and the impact that dedicated carer support workers had at local level.

And yet, recent press coverage in the Herald suggests that things will go backwards rather than forwards. Local authority plans may well decimate social care and carer support services in Scotland. How shortsighted – and in the long run, this will be far more costly for statutory services. Any permanent benefit and changes in working practices which Moffat achieved may well be undone.

Unpaid carers have been there when paid care workers couldn’t get to their clients; they continue to provide care no matter what the weather. Small investments such as the £1 million invested in the infrastructure by the Moffat Charitable Trust can make a huge difference and save money in these tough times.  That’s a message we will ask all politicians to take on board in the coming months.

To all carers and families out there, seasons greetings and all the very best for 2011.

Lynn

December 21, 2010 Posted by | Benefits, Budget, Carers Strategy, Scotland | , , , , | Leave a comment

Baby steps for carers

The Government called it their ‘Next Steps for the Carers’ Strategy’. Carers will want to know whether these are just baby steps or worse something akin to Paula Abdul’s “Take two steps forward, and you take two steps back’.

The biggest leap forward in the Strategy was actually announced a week before; £400m would be given to the NHS to spend on supporting carers which I spoke about in my last blog. This leaves the extra investment in training GPs to support carers as the headline maker. Government have said £6m will be made available for this over the four years of this strategy.

Many carers will angrily feel that they should get the money and not GPs, and others will think that we should not spend money on training GPs to do something they should already do. The Government feels that this money can get GPs to identify and refer carers for support much earlier than they are currently doing, if at all. Hopefully, this should mean that more carers will get support, and earlier too.

There are many Carers’ Centres and Crossroads Care schemes who do training and work with GPs and it does result in more carers getting better support and more help from GPs. The NHS has to realise that the £400m they will receive should be used to support the extra carers that GPs should be identifying and referring for support.

Other announcements are unlikely to get any carers dancing in the streets – even to a Paula Abdul song…

  • Skills for Care and Skills for Health will publish a learning and training framework so professionals better understand needs of carers
  • Will develop an e-learning module to improve school support for carers
  • Government will promote the benefits of providing flexible working
  • Seek to improve access to support for carers suffering mental and emotional strain

Governments are often criticised for over promising and under delivering. So far, I’m not sure that they could be accused of the former and time will tell regarding the delivery. It all hangs on that £6m for GPs and £400m for the NHS. If they don’t bring about the changes needed, carers will not think the Government will have done much in the four years to 2015.

Take care

Gordon

December 9, 2010 Posted by | Budget, Carers Strategy, David Cameron | , | 2 Comments