This blog post has been contributed by Will Davidson:
I’m Will Davidson, I have been volunteering with the Policy department at The Princess Royal Trust for Carers for the past two months, helping to research how government proposals will affect carers, especially on the issue of Carers Breaks.
Today we launched a report looking at whether Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) have been working with carers’ organisations to develop plans and budgets for carers breaks and if these plans have been published. Late last year the Coalition Government announced increased support for carers by allocating an additional £400m over 4 years to PCTs to focus on providing breaks for carers. They requested that each PCT works with local authorities and carers’ organisations to publish policies, plans and budgets to support carers.
So are PCTs following these guidelines set out by the Government? Do carers’ organisations feel more engaged now than they did before these announcements?
We found that only 9% of PCTs had developed updated plans and budgets for carers taking into account the additional money. 54% said that they would do so during 2011/12, and some very shortly. Carers will be disappointed that many PCTs are still developing plans eight months after the Government announcement and guidance. The remaining 37% said they would not be updating their plans.
For me, the most concerning finding is the number of PCTs still not working with carers’ organisations to develop plans and budgets. 82% of PCTs advised that they were working with carers’ organisations to develop plans and budgets, but carers’ organisations did not agree. 40% of PCTs were judged by carers’ organisations not to have engaged at all to develop plans and budgets.
Having minimal or irregular contact with carers’ organisations, or providing some funding for organisations connected to supporting carers does not in our view constitute real co-production of plans and budgets.
That said the examples in Sunderland and Richmond highlighted in previous blogs show that there is progress being made in some places, and we do think that more PCTs are now engaging with carers’ organisations and funding services than before. But the NHS as a whole has not made a breakthrough in supporting carers. PCTs must redouble their efforts, admittedly at a time of uncertainty for them, and Government must remember its’ responsibility and commitment to carers when considering its response to our findings.
It’s Saturday morning and I’ve just read on the BBC News website that the Government is considering giving credits to people who provide care. These credits could then be redeemed against that person’s own future or current social care costs. The article then says the Government is praising the Japanese system Fureai Kippu.
Rather stupidly, my immediate thought was “the Government is stealing my ideas!!!”, as if this wasn’t exactly the point of my job.
Last year, I proposed these ideas in Crediting Carers and have also pushed them during the Government’s consultation on refreshing the Carers’ Strategy. I actually recently repeated the idea of redeeming credits against future social care costs in my blog on “Considering Insurance Scheme for Care Needs” as well. So, all very interesting.
Then I get a call from the BBC who want to interview me for their TV news programmes. Interesting becomes quite exciting but quickly turns to puzzlement. The BBC phone back to say the Government are now denying they are considering the idea although it is interesting, so the story is going dead and no interview is needed. The news article is changed to its current format.
So did the Government change their mind? And if so what caused it?
Well, if they did, it could have been because of slightly negative reaction from some people, including the National Council for Voluntary Organisations as quoted in the BBC article. Their criticism is that it won’t motivate people to volunteer, as suggested in the original article, that people who volunteer shouldn’t be rewarded and the statement of a belief that care is and should be provided by the State and not family or friends.
What they completely ignore is that there are already 6 million people providing care that the State otherwise would have to, and that people currently do and will ever more so in the future pay for social care. I’m not sure if those making quick responses actually understand the proposals in detail.
The idea of credits for caring is the only way to ensure that an insurance based system, which is highly likely to be created (see my earlier blog mentioned above), is fair to people who provide care that would otherwise have to be paid for. Ivan Lewis MP at the Labour conference said it was obvious that crediting carers would have to be part of the future system.
Quite simply, if the Government isn’t considering this, then it should be. And if it was considering it but is now more hesitant, the Government must stand up and explain why these changes are necessary and right.