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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

The Carers (Scotland) Bill

In March this year, the Scottish Government introduced the Carers (Scotland) Bill. It’s been a long time coming – first announced in Autumn 2013, an extensive public consultation took place to look at what was required from a Bill for carers and how it would interact with other pieces of Scottish legislation. And of course, this was all done with one eye on the Care Act – seeing what was happening elsewhere in the UK, what we could learn from the process of the development of the Care Act and what carers wanted to do differently in Scotland. Continue reading

July 21, 2015 Posted by | Scotland | | Leave a comment

Scotland and the General Election

It’s now less than 50 days until the UK General Election and just over six months since the Scottish independence referendum, and we’re looking at a very different political landscape than before the referendum took place.

For carers, it can be tricky to see exactly what impact Westminster politics has on Scotland. Continue reading

March 25, 2015 Posted by | General Election, Scotland | Leave a comment

Equal Access to Self Directed Support for Carers

Note: The following blog post has been contributed by Florence Burke, Director of Scotland.

Going to bed at 9 pm and waking up at 11:30 am…

For many carers, the idea of sleeping that long sounds like a dream come true. Fourteen hours of solid, health-restoring sleep with the only interruption being a quick trip to the loo, instead of frequent awakenings to care for someone.

On this occasion, though the person going to bed at 9pm wasn’t going there through choice. He’s paralysed from the chest down and the agency workers looking after him could only come to put him to bed at 9pm. The next day, 11.30am was the first available slot to get them out of bed. But self-directed support has now transformed his life through employing a personal assistant who works around his needs and wishes. Flexibility of choice is what service users want from self-directed support, but what about their carers? Don’t they deserve flexibility too?

The Scottish Parliament’s Health & Sport Committee publishes its response to stage one of the Social Care (Self Directed Support or SDS) (Scotland) Bill this week (6 July) at The Princess Royal Trust Glasgow South East Carers Centre, one of our Network Partners. The publication of this report follows wide-spread consultation with carers to find out what they think.

We’ve been working closely with carers and carers’ centres in Dundee and Dumfries & Galloway and across Scotland to highlight where carers and their needs fit into the bill. We’ve fed back to the Health & Sport Committee and said:

SDS must not be put in place alongside cuts – local authorities need to take full account of the cost of supporting people with carer needs AND their carers.

Assessments need to have a goal of improving lives for the person being cared for and their carer – they must take both persons’ situations into account.

Training should be provided to carers so that they can understand SDS and what is on offer. Carer workers at present receive training – unpaid carers do not. This means they are not equal partners in care, a phrase often bandied about as a goal statutory services should acknowledge.

Information, information, information… Carers need access to the right information about SDS and what options are available so that they can make the choices that will suit them best.

Finally, carers feel is grossly unfair to make SDS for carers subject to financial assessments. SDS can help carers continue to care – and unpaid carers ultimately save the public purse more than £10 billion in Scotland. So why should they charged for support that can help them take breaks, prevent their own ill-health and allow them to continue caring?

We and carers feel that offering SDS to carers should be a duty on local authorities and not a power. We don’t want a Scotland where some carers have no problems accessing SDS and others fight battles for it. It’s great that carers and the specialist support provided by carers’ centres is being acknowledged at the launch of the report but equal partners in care, continues to be our aim – let’s make that the reality.

July 3, 2012 Posted by | Carers movement, Scotland | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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’ issues a hot topic in Scottish election

Note: This is a joint blog from Lynn Williams, Fiona Collie and Claire Cairns who have been leading the National Carer Organisation Election Campaign in Scotland

We are moving into the final days of the election campaign in Scotland and the issues affecting carers and young carers have become a hot topic. Over the last few weeks carers’ organisations have worked hard to ensure that carers and young carers alike have had a chance to question candidates and influence parties’ thinking. Through the press, through on line media and face to face with candidates, carers and young carers have been heard loud and clear on what matters most to them and to their families.

This election marks a turning point for carers; every party has in some form or another directly recognised their contribution with a string of manifesto pledges made which seek to improve carers’ and young carers lives.

Claire Cairns, Fiona Collie and Lynn Williams

Launching the Carers Manifesto at the Scottish Parliament

We very much welcome specific pledges which seek to involve carers and young carers at the very heart of Government in Scotland. These commitments include Scottish Labour’s pledge to install a Cabinet level Carers’ Champion who can lead and work across all policy areas in Government. The party is also pledging to set up a Carers’ Summit to enable a Scottish Labour Government (or coalition administration involving Labour) to shape policies and decisions affecting carers’ lives (link to Labour party pledges to follow).

The SNP have pledged to deliver an annual Carers’ Parliament to give carers and young carers a direct say in the work of the Government and the Scottish Parliament. http://manifesto.votesnp.com/carers.

If realised, any one of these commitments will give carers and young carers a voice in shaping decisions that affect their lives at the highest levels of Government.

Other parties such as the Scottish Lib Dems are looking to extend the rights that carers have and improve local service delivery. http://www.scotlibdems.org.uk/files/SLD2011manifesto.pdf.

Labour join the Lib Dems in pledging to investigate a right to respite for carers. http://www.scottishlabour.org.uk/uploads/938e3455-1814-0b84-e115-8ddec3a327b5.pdf

Meanwhile, the Scottish Conservatives have costed a substantial investment in additional respite and many of the smaller parties have made a range of commitments to carers. http://www.scottishconservatives.com/downloads/scottish-conservative-manifesto-2011.pdf

Carers’ issues are indeed one of this election’s hot topics. But one commentator in the press recently said that manifestos are not worth the paper they are written on – and that might well be the case.

But as part of Scotland’s Carers Organisations we are making our own pledge to you – that we will work together tirelessly to bring parties to account whether in Government or opposition on the pledges they have made. We will continue to work directly with Ministers and MSPs in opposition to build on what has already been achieved for Scotland’s carers; we are also already planning for the Scottish Local Elections next year – service delivery locally is a key concern.

So there is much to look forward to and much still to do. Please continue to work with us to help make the lives of Scotland’s carers and young carers the best that they can be – to ensure that their contribution is truly recognised. Our Scottish Carers’ Manifesto – shaped by carers and young carers – will continue to be the basis for our campaigning work at national and local level. You can also continue to have your say on our ‘Carers Votes Count’ Facebook pages.

To the 5th May and beyond!!

Lynn, Claire and Fiona On behalf of Scotland’s National Carer Organisations

May 2, 2011 Posted by | General Election, Scotland | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Recognise and prioritise the role of carers

This blog was written by Carole Cochrane, Chief Executive at The Princess Royal Trust for Carers

Today is the first day of my last month as Chief Executive of The Princess Royal Trust for Carers. I have worked with and for The Trust for over 17 years so it is with a real mixture of feelings that I am writing this blog.

Mother and son outside Carers' Centre

You cannot do a job like this and just walk away

When I started back in 1994 it was to establish one of the first Princess Royal Trust Carers’ Centres. Those were such exciting times filled with hope and aspirations.

In 1995 we had the Carers (Recognition & Services) Act.  This was the first piece of legislation that really recognised the role of carers, their needs and the benefits of ensuring they have support in their own right.

Malcolm Wicks MP did a great job pushing the bill through and I remember so well the feeling of elation that we now had something on the statute books about and for carers. I also remember a feeling of frustration that no money came with the Act. Good local authorities were already looking at ways to support carers!

I remember working with the head of the local social work team to train all their staff on the contents of the Act. This proved to be a brilliant opportunity to form real lasting relationships between the Carers’ Centre and the social work team, and between social workers and the carers who helped with the training.

I was extremely proud that following this training the Carers’ Centre was no longer seen as a place to avoid, but rather a place for social workers to turn to for information, advice and support. The Trust was able to grow and between us we delivered some real ground breaking support.

There have been a few significant pieces of legislation passed since then, including the Carers and Disabled Children Act 2000 and The Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act 2004, and I am sure there will be further development to ensure carers’ rights regarding access to accurate and timely information, emotional and practical support, and respite breaks.

Some things have changed for the better since 1994 but some have not.  My fear as I leave is that in these austere times the much needed support for carers may get watered down and what I still to this day believe is a fantastic model of local carers support services will be diluted.

Having witnessed first-hand the difference our network of local carer services can make to the lives of carers and those they care for I truly hope that this is not the case.

Last year in the run up to the elections  we saw all of the main party leaders speak about the need to support carers and of the fantastic work that carers do. Mr Cameron and Mr Clegg, remember your words and stay true to ensuring carers do have the support they need to fulfil their caring roles and be able to be full citizens of the UK.

Leaders of parties in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland must also prioritise carers and I know colleagues are working to push this in preparations for upcoming elections there.

So as I reach my final weeks with The Trust what will I miss?  When my children were young and when I cared for my husband, work had to be around these very important roles so lots of part-time, evening and night working.

For the past three years I have spent most of my working week travelling and being away from home, and I know I won’t miss that.  But I will really miss the camaraderie of colleagues, network members, and carers’ organisations that I have worked alongside to try to improve the lives of carers.

I will miss the engagement with carers.  Meeting carers whether at Pontin’s when we did the carers breaks there; at Carers’ Centres or conferences and other events has always kept me both grounded and focused.

I will miss working with our President HRH The Princess Royal who I have found to be extremely supportive and knowledgeable about the cause, and incredibly hard working.

You cannot do a job like this and just walk away. Although I am not sure how, when or where, I do know that I will continue to watch what is happening and continue to do whatever I can to influence better support services for carers.

March 1, 2011 Posted by | Big Society, Carers movement, General Election, Law, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales | , , , | 5 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

Preventing Crisis for Scotland’s Carers – The Answer in the Moffat Report

Note: This is the second of a three-part blog post by Lynn Williams, the Policy Officer in the Glasgow office at The Princess Royal Trust for Carers. The first part of the blog post talked about the changing weather and the problems for Scotland carers.

And this is where the lessons from the Moffat project come in.  Funded through a gift from the Moffat Charitable Trust, the project involved The Princess Royal Trust for Carers and Carers’ Centres in Lothians and the Borders, Glasgow, and East Ayrshire working in partnership to improve the situation described above.  With hugely ambitious aims, Support Workers who were part of Carers’ Centre teams, set out to identify carers as early as possible in their caring journey; to help them connect to key services and to get support which maintained their own health and wellbeing. They also worked to ensure that carers were involved in discharge planning.

An independent evaluation of this work by Glasgow Caledonian University highlights the benefits of early identification and specific support provided to unpaid carers. The work carried out helped to vastly increase professionals’ awareness of unpaid carers and their need to involve carers in discharge planning and processes.

Over 3,000 new carers were identified – including an 85 year old man who provides care for his 100 year old sister.   This substantial figure also included a 49 year old woman who was left to run the family business after her husband had a stroke.  As a result of the direct involvement and input of carer support workers, carers reported that agencies worked better together; carers were assessed in their own right; they were also helped to access benefits and grants to minimise the financial impact of caring. Carers reported that health professionals increasingly recognised their contribution and expertise and increasingly understood that carers themselves need support in their own right.

Over 4000 health and social carer professionals received training and worked with carer support staff to improve support mechanisms for unpaid carers.

The impact of having dedicated carer support workers based in hospitals working with health care professionals and unpaid carers in health settings has been recognised in some of the project areas;  continuation funding in the Borders, Lothians and Ayrshire mean that the partnerships, referral pathways and improved joint working will not be lost. As we look ahead to next year’s Draft Scottish budget, a further £5 million has been allocated to support Carer Information Strategy activity – we would strongly argue that it should be allocated for the type of work which the Moffat workers delivered.

Carers Centres involved in the project have seen the benefits and challenges of improved local partnerships.  The challenges include massively increased demand for support with standstill budgets and increasing costs.

December 20, 2010 Posted by | Benefits, Health, Scotland | , , | 1 Comment