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
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.
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.
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 Trusts (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.
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.
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
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.
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.