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Any breakthrough for carers?

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.

Further info:

Read the full report: Any breakthrough for carers?

Find out more about the Give Carers a Break campaign

July 14, 2011 Posted by | breaks for carers, Health | , , , | 5 Comments

The Number 10 Experience

Note: The following blog post has been written by Moira Fraser, Director of Policy at The Princess Royal Trust for Carers

“The Prime Minister requests the pleasure of your company…” came the invitation. What an opportunity to get carers Number 10issues noticed right at the top. So on Wednesday morning, determined to give it my best shot, I walked up Downing Street, said good morning to the policeman and  rang the brass doorbell. The door swung open ominously….

Around twenty charities were  invited to give their views on NHS reform. Some big household names, some tiny – a real mix, but few others with a real carer focus. Lansley opened the debate, later joined by Cameron and Clegg.

The Coalition Government is clearly in trouble with its health reforms, and I have to say I can’t see what’s in it for carers. They say it’s not about privatisation, but unless more thought goes in, the competition it will allow will end up with a focus on price rather than quality. You can’t provide decent carer’s services on tuppence ha’penny. It also means charities end up competing against each other – exactly what we want to avoid. And changing the boundaries of health consortia and making these different from local authorities will make it a lot more difficult to join up all the different services which are needed to support young carers and families with complex needs.

About an hour into the meeting, I took my chance.  I caught Andrew Lansley’s eye – he looked at me and nodded. Gulp. In what felt like slow motion, Cameron and Clegg turned and looked at me. Carers have been absent from the debate so far, I said, and you need to remember our vital role. With some notable exceptions, GPs often forget all about carers  and carers organisations. We need joined up working, and services which work together to support families  to make sure vulnerable people don’t  fall through the cracks. The Bill needs to help this happen, not hinder this.

They nodded and asked more about GP practices working with the voluntary sector. The GP present agreed that primary care sometimes forgets anyone else exists. They agreed the Bill needs changes to give more indication of how local arrangements should work but didn’t agree that consortia boundaries will make things difficult. As he left, the Prime Minister, said we will all need to work to make health and wellbeing boards effective, “to do things like making sure carers get the right kind of support”.

I think there are real problems with the Bill. I think there is a massive risk of carers being forgotten about in decision making processes. There may be opportunities for the voluntary sector, but if it comes down to price we will all lose out. I said my piece. They said they were listening. But did they hear?

April 15, 2011 Posted by | Carers movement, Carers Strategy, David Cameron, Social Care | , , | 6 Comments

Carers in the News

Blogs are good when you’ve got newsworthy things to talk about. The problem is that if carers’ issues are in the media, then it generally means I’ve got no time to write a blog. So, the blog I was going to write after Andrew Marr was asking Iain Duncan Smith about what he will do for carers two Sundays ago was superseded by the young carers’ story the Tuesday after. Which, was combined with the Government announcing £400m breaks for carers.

Then there was the Government’s new Vision for Adult Social Care and what it means for carers, but before I could write anything, I was at events with carers two days in a row and wanted to speak about those. Then the Carers’ Strategy was published on Thursday and the Government announced £6m to improve GP support of carers.

Every time I went to write something, it was yesterday’s news. I always get told that blogs have to be current to be read by people, although I’m not sure how many readers I have to lose!

However, if you will permit me I will do a rapid succession of blogs covering all of these immediately after this blog. And anyway taking time to look back at things is healthy…

But all of this activity has made me ask whether this is a sign that carers as an issue is becoming ever more central to political and social discourse.

When everything is being cut, £400m extra is being announced for carers. When the Equality Act came into force, it was the benefits for carers that was highlighted (good job Carers UK). When the Coalition Government published its Programme for Government, there were specific commitments made to carers, when other issues were ignored. The party leaders discussed carers’ issues live on TV twice during the election and specific pledges were made.

I know it will not feel like it for many if not most carers, but as a movement, this could be our time to make great strides forward. The Law Commission and the Commission on the Funding of Care and Support will make recommendations next year which could fundamentally change the legal rights and level of support carers can expect. This is our time that we must make the most of.

The one thing I have learnt in these two weeks is that attention can be fleeting, moving onto something else very quickly. Before you know it, a royal has got engaged and the whole world goes gaga meaning carers’ issues drop back down. We can’t let that happen, not now.

Take care

Gordon

November 29, 2010 Posted by | Benefits, breaks for carers, Budget, Carers movement, Carers Strategy, Conservatives, David Cameron, Individual Budgets, Liberal Democrats | , , , , | 9 Comments

Is Government Considering Credits for Carers?

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.

Gordon

October 30, 2010 Posted by | Carers Strategy, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats | , , | 9 Comments

What Can the Government Do to Help You?

You may be glad to hear that after spouting forth recently, not even one opinion will be spouted by me in this blog. I want you to spout instead.

In November or December, the Government will outline how they will try support carers between 2011 and 2015. But until 20th September, we all have the chance to influence their thinking. The Princess Royal Trust for Carers and Crossroads Care will be submitting a response and we’re both keen to hear your thoughts and opinions.

The Government have split their plans into five areas and I want your ideas on what you think the Government could do to help you (or carers generally):

  1. Be respected as expert care partners and have access to personalised services they need to support them in their caring role
  2. Have a life of their alongside their caring role
  3. Be supported so that they care not forced into financial hardship by their caring role (NB benefits are being considered as part of another consultation and not this one, which I’ll come to in a later blog, so it would be more useful to focus on other things here)
  4. Be supported to stay mentally and physically well and treated with dignity.
  5. Children and young people will be protected from inappropriate caring and have the support they need to learn, develop and thrive, to enjoy positive childhoods and to achieve against all the Every Child Matters outcomes

So, flood me with comments and it would be great if you could explain to me why you think the Government should prioritise what you’re suggesting, rather than other areas. And also why it would help achieve one of the five aims outlined above.

Thanks folks

Gordon

August 27, 2010 Posted by | Budget, Carers Strategy, David Cameron, Health, Mental Health, Social Care, Young carers | , , , , , , , , , | 41 Comments

Carers Cannot Suffer Financial Cuts

Carers are already doing their bit

Long summer nights tend to bring out the wistful, romantic in me. What a wonderful world is on repeat in my head and I embellish my mood of serenity.

Then on the 21st/22nd June, the earth begins tilting away from the sun meaning shorter days and longer nights. It seems appropriate that the emergency budget outlining future spending plans will happen on 22nd June. The first day of the darker nights.

Our pre-election demand was that the £256m non-ringfenced grant given to English local authorities to support carers cannot be cut. And this was spared from the £6bn savings for this year announced a couple of weeks ago.

But, the financial cuts experienced by local authorities in other areas means that they will have to pull money from some areas to cover other losses. We are already hearing reports of our local Carers’ Centres and Crossroads Care organisations having funding withdrawn or greatly reduced.

I am wholly convinced that we all should “do our bit” – some of us will pay higher taxes and other programmes may lose out. But, what is clear is that carers are already doing their bit. If you take what little support they get away, they will fall over due to physical and emotional collapse.

And if this was to happen, there would actually be a bigger cost to this country.

Our latest report produces evidence that supporting carers is not only morally right but actually leads to better outcomes for people they are supporting and saves money in the long term. We show that by supporting carers, there will be:

  1. Less hospitalisation of stroke patients saving £3500+ per patient, per annum.
  2. Delayed entry into residential care of person needing care by over 500 day
  3. Improved hospital discharge processes that means freeing up beds

Money has to be saved but government and local authorities must look elsewhere because put simply, this country cannot afford to not support carers.

Take care

Gordon

June 7, 2010 Posted by | Social Care | , , , , , , , | 7 Comments