Councils charging for support puts carers’ wellbeing at risk

From time to time, every carer needs support to help them look after the person they are caring for.

Sometimes that will mean getting equipment installed in their home so that they can meet the needs of the person they support. Other times it might mean calling in home help so that they can keep up with their housework.

The importance of these services cannot be overstated. They mean that carers can provide the best support possible to their friend or family member whilst maintaining their own health. Continue reading

September 16, 2015 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 3 Comments

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

Carers are still not getting the financial backing they need and deserve

Whenever Carers Trust meets with politicians there’s one clear message that we always try to communicate: by investing in carers you’re investing in the wellbeing of society.

7 million unpaid carers across the UK are looking after friends and family – people who would otherwise be dependent on the NHS or social care for help or, worse, have to go without support altogether. Continue reading

July 16, 2015 Posted by | Benefits, Funding | | 5 Comments

Predicting the future for carers services

When I agreed to write this blog post, I somewhat naively hoped that by the start of 2015 I would have a clear picture of what the next 12 months might bring for carers services, and that I’d be able to make some predictions about how commissioning is likely to change and develop over the coming year. But the reality is that it’s still too early to determine exactly how the Care Act and the Children and Families Act will be translated into reality and how these and other developments will affect the commissioning landscape. Continue reading

January 20, 2015 Posted by | Commissioning | , , , | Leave a comment

Get pledging for the Carers Week quest

This week, all of the organisations involved in Carers Week – including Carers Trust, Carers UK, the MS Society, Age UK and others – went to MP Norman Lamb with Carers Week membersWhitehall to launch the Carers Week quest.  The aim this year is to really focus our minds – not just amongst carers charities, but across the NHS, local authorities and other charities. We need to work together locally as well as nationally because although we know there are around 7 million carers in the UK, the vast majority do not get anything like enough support. Continue reading

February 14, 2014 Posted by | Carers Week 2014, Young carers | , , | 2 Comments

Husband, Dad, Boyfriend, Grandad, Carer?

Our Policy & Campaigns Officer, Kirsty, explains why we have chosen to partner with the Men’s Health Forum on some important new research being undertaken about male carers…

41% of the UK’s carers are men. In older carers (aged over 75) the ratio of male to female carers is virtually equal with 50.4% of carers men, and in the over 85s 59% of carers are male.

Yet here at Carers Trust we often hear from our Network Partners that fewer men than women access their services and that they face challenges setting up male carers support groups. Continue reading

January 20, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 2 Comments

Carers left out in the cold due to fuel poverty

Well, the clocks have gone back, many areas have had the first snowfall of the season (even if it only lasted a day) and the shops are filled with mince pies, Christmas cards and tinsel. Winter is definitely here to stay, but for carers the winter season with its shorter days and cold weather brings with it extra worries.

Carers often have to worry about fuel bills, and this increases as the temperature drops and the nights draw in. Whilst rising fuel costs are affecting everyone, carers and the people they care for can be at particular disadvantage due to their unique combination of circumstances. Fuel costs can really mount up when people are in the house all day and need to keep warm, and the choice to care for someone can often lead to financial and fuel poverty.

Fuel poverty is defined by spending more than 10% of household income on all fuel costs. As carers are often on low incomes, and need to keep homes warmer for more hours in the day, carers can find that they incur higher heating bills in order to keep the ill, frail and disabled people they care for comfortable.

Carers in rural and isolated communities can also be burdened with extra costs, as these areas are not on the mains gas supply and more expensive forms of heating such as solid fuel, oil or electric heating must be used. Winter fuel payments are available to many people on certain benefits, but there is little support for carers who do not qualify for these payments. Many people will care for elderly parents who continue to live in their own home – their parents may have the support of winter fuel payments, but adult children who have given up work to care for them will not.

However, all of the main energy companies offer special tariffs and services for ‘vulnerable customers’ – people who have a disability or a long term condition, or older people. This support can include bills and correspondence being sent directly to a person’s carer, free energy efficiency equipment such as low-energy light bulbs, or ensuring people who require powered medical or assistance equipment like stairlifts or ventilators will never be at risk of suddenly having their power cut off, even if they are struggling to pay the bills. If you care for someone who needs extra support, make sure their gas or electricity supplier is aware of their needs and that they are on the register of vulnerable customers.

Carers Trust understands the pressures of the winter season on carers only too well. We campaign for national recognition of unpaid carers and young carers’ issues and the help that will make life easier for them. In addition, the UK network of independently managed carers’ centres and schemes offers services to carers and young carers across the country. This help ranges from carrying out a Carer’s Assessment to giving energy efficiency advice, providing training, offering help with the benefits system, counselling and one to one support.

This blog was contributed by Heather Noller. Policy Officer in Scotland. Carers Trust is known as the Princess Royal Trust for Carers in Scotland.

November 19, 2012 Posted by | Benefits | , , | 1 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

So who’s really going to have to pay for social care?

Yesterday saw another report taking a long hard look at the state of social care in England – this time the Nuffield Trust in Reforming social care: options for funding. The hard truth is this: we all know social care needs more money and none of us want to give it.  Those of us involved in the care system already, one way or another,  generally think it should be paid for by taxpayers. Like  the NHS, we want it to be there when we need it – free at the point of use. That sounds great and I’ll continue to tell anyone who’ll listen that it’s what people want, but if I’m being honest with you, it just isn’t going to happen.

There is no appetite within government for putting taxes up – even under Labour in the good times in England, free care was never really up for discussion ( unlike our Scottish friends). With a  Conservative-led administration, and in these austere times, we just have to face facts that it’s not on the table.

So what are the other options? The Nuffield Trust have come up with a few. As you might know  Andrew Dilnot suggested a cap of £35k on the amount an individual might have to pay for their care once they reach “substantial” level of need (this would be lower for people who have care needs earlier on in life. Well maybe we could increase this, but would this reduce the effectiveness of the whole proposal?  We want people to think it’s a manageable amount to plan for so they don’t leave care in their older years completely up to chance.

Other options suggested are redirecting the NHS underspend to care . I’m all for that, but I find it hard to believe the NHS  has all that spare cash sloshing around. We found it hard enough to get them to tell us about the £100m  they were supposed to be spending on support for carers last year. And you know what happens when you discover you might have to give cash back if it’s not spent – you suddenly find a hundred useful things to do with it, so that suddenly – surprise!  – the cash is gone.

The other area they suggest is the one which might be most controversial. They suggest that a lot of benefit payments go to older people who are quite wealthy and don’t really need them, so we could claw some of this back and use it to pay for care for others. I can hear the sharp intake of breath happening in older peoples’ circles all round the country. Whilst in principle I think we all understand that benefits are there to ensure a reasonable standard of living for everyone, and that £100 might be a whole income for one person for a week but might be pin money for someone else, I still think this would cause massive political ructions. I don’t think any politician, particularly  the Tories with the demography of their voting base, will be queuing up for the outpouring of grey rage that would ensue.

The trouble is that whatever sector of the population is hit, someone will object. Of course they will. If it’s carers who are hit I will be first in line to shout the odds  to defend carers’ incomes. But if we all just focus on defending our own patches, nothing will change.

So what’s the solution? If the spare cash in the NHS really exists then, sure,  let’s get out hands on it but even if we do it won’t be enough. I think we all need to ask ourselves some hard questions and decide what price we’re prepared to pay for a fairer system.  So tell me – who do you think should give?

May 31, 2012 Posted by | Social Care | , , , , | 2 Comments

The thread that connects carers, ex-carers and their supporters

Where I’m from in Scotland, Perth, is the home of the Black Watch regiment. This regiment has a long history stretchingCarers are already doing their bit back centuries and has a notion of a ‘golden thread’ that connects all current and ex-soldiers in a single narrative – the history of the Black Watch.

I feel this same sense of shared history and common purpose with people who work to support carers. Once you have been a carer or worked to support carers, you become part of something that lasts even if your caring or work role ends. You never stop caring.

When I joined the carers’ thread, the first two carers I met were Martine and Freya. I still remember being rather dumbstruck when listening to them. It was a guy called Stewart who introduced me to them and helped me understand the issues. But more importantly, it was his passion that affected me. He was utterly selfless in his efforts to support carers.

Since, I’ve met other people who have joined the carers’ thread and seen how their passion and determination has grown. As I leave working to support carers, I think the thread is stronger than it ever has been.

In my fourth ever blog, I recounted how I had arrived for a meeting at Parliament to find a note on the door at the end of the corridor telling me it was cancelled. This feeling of having struggled along a never-ending road to find that when you get there, the door is shut is too  common for carers.

In my first blog, I said that there was no single magical solution to solve all the different problems that each carer faces. This means that we can’t just kick the door down once, we have to do it over and over again for every individual carer. Sometimes this will mean that while we make progress for some carers, others may not benefit.

But with more and more people waking up to the issues that carers face there are more and more people trying to kick down the doors. One day, there will be more people kicking down doors than there are doors. That thought may seem far away for many carers, especially when they are struggling alone.

But they should know that they are not alone. They too are part of this thread that connects carers, ex-carers and everybody working to support them. You may not know it and you may not feel it, but there are many, many people who care about you.

Take care, and goodbye


PS: I, and my partner Claire, are starting a new blog for when we’re working in Cambodia:

January 24, 2012 Posted by | Relationships, Social Care | , | 2 Comments