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Scottish Party Conferences and Carers

Note: The following post has been contributed by Lynn Williams, the Policy Officer for Scotland at The Princess Royal Trust for Carers

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After the Conferences…Well, the Scottish Party Conference season is over (a big ‘phew’ from me!!) and we take our first steps on the road to the Scottish Budget and Election 2011.

So what happened and how did carers fare?

The answer is not very well…so far.  Political parties in Scotland are only beginning to make policy announcements.   Carers were mentioned by the Scottish Labour Party.

Tasneem and Brenda – two carers from Glasgow who spoke at the recent Cross Party Group

The Scottish Lib Dems have included a commitment to carers in their pre manifesto document and we are continuing to work with their manifesto team to ensure that carers are fully recognised.

The SNP did not make any policy commitments about carers at their conference but a recent meeting with the SNP manifesto team generated some interesting ideas to benefit unpaid carers and young carers.  This includes looking at ways in which carers might be better supported in employment.  Also, a meeting with the Scottish Conservative shadow health team last month was productive and positive.

It’s too early to say at this stage if and how carers will be recognised in each party’s manifesto, but we continue to work with all the parties to ensure this happens.

So we look ahead to the budget and beyond to next May’s election….

A National Care Service?

Influencing party manifestos is all well and good, but it is what happens beyond the election that matters. 

If Labour gets into power next year, the new government will seek to introduce a National Care Service within the lifetime of the next Parliament (2011 – 2015). The aim in doing so would be to end the postcode lottery of social care provision, bringing together health and social care so that “no-one falls through the gaps” and that the focus is “on the person needing care.”

Did I miss the word carer in there somewhere?  Yes, I think I did.

Whilst no one would argue against the laudable aim of tackling the complicated infrastructure of support and the disconnect that exists between health and social care, is a NATIONAL service the way to do it?

As I lie awake at 4am in the morning (something which I do quite often) I have been thinking about this proposal:

  • Will it tackle the existing gaps and overlaps in existing provision?
  • Will it offer more effective recognition and support of carers?
  • Would the service lead to more effective working between the NHS and social care provision in Scotland.

Scotland is a small enough country to enable a national service to work; but, it’s hard to say anything concrete about this proposal without any more detail. And whatever form it takes, it cannot work without placing unpaid carers and young carers at its heart.  I think there is a missing link here….

Another point to make – “national” is not always better. It can be less quick to respond and the needs of the individual can be lost; it can be bureaucratic; it can also be more costly as layers of delivery and management develop over time. 

The last thing that concerns me is timescale – Mr. Gray and Ms. Baillie committed to delivering the new service during the lifetime of the next Parliament.  Whatever the benefits, opportunities – and challenges – of this proposal, the creation of a National Care Service won’t happen quickly enough to help carers now as they experience local cuts to services and changing eligibility criteria for respite and short breaks. It won’t happen quickly enough for local Carers’ Centres who are already struggling to meet massively increased demand on standstill budgets.

Another issue relates to social care procurement and plans within Greater Glasgow and Clyde Valley local authorities to look at merging specific functions such as social care.  Should this go ahead, there would be substantial impact on a significant number of carers and their families.  But bigger still, the national care service would, I guess, have a significant procurement role.  Would the focus be on quality or cost?  How would that benefits the lives of carers in Scotland? 

The Budget, Elections and Beyond….

So we move towards publication of the Scottish Budget later this month.  This will determine the public sector landscape and how services will be delivered both nationally and locally – no matter which party wins power next year.

We intend to put out a final ‘plea’ to MSPs prior to ensure that they support recognition of carers and young carers within the budget, and to ask them to put pressure on the Minister and Mr Swinney to continue Carer Information Strategy funds continue beyond 2011.  We will also ask that the existing Government places a requirement on health boards to work with carer organisations to take any future funding forward and that Centres benefit directly from this – they are best place to deliver services which benefit carers and young carers.

Even if this funding stream continues (and that would be extremely welcome) it does not guarantee sustainable funding for carer support and Carers’ Centres from 2011. The early stage plans to merge social care provision and other functions across a number of local authorities in the west of Scotland would likely have an impact on funding for Carers Centres.

So, now, more than ever, Carers Centres and the carers they support need to be vocal and visible and demonstrate the economic and social impact of reducing or stopping funding for carer support.  An example has been set – a Conservative controlled local authority in Greater London has recently awarded the local Carers Centre a seven year contract to deliver services because of its unique and effective offering.  That should be the model we aspire to.  If a Conservative local authority can do it, so can others.

All political parties in Scotland say they are committed to unpaid carers and young carers.  No doubt, each party’s manifesto will make a commitment to support them. Warm words at this point.  Carers who spoke at the recent Cross Party Group highlighted the continuing challenges they face for recognition.  We launched the Scottish Carers Manifesto at that event and its banner says ‘No more talk…. Action now”. That is the message we want every MSP and prospective parliamentary candidate to take to heart. There are tens of thousands of carers in your constituency and regions – that’s a lot of votes. In what is likely to be the tightest election since devolution, carers and first time voters who are young carers could help you win your constituency or regional seat.

Next time…

There is more happening at a national level around closer working between health and social care. This relates to the “Reshaping Care for the Elderly” agenda. Once we have more detail we will keep you posted.

For now, take care and please let me know what is happening with social care provision in your area.  Have cuts started to affect you?  Please contact me or use our Facebook pages to let us know the types of issues that you would like us to raise with MSPs.

Lynn

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November 10, 2010 Posted by | Benefits, Budget, Carers Strategy, Conservatives, David Cameron, Health, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Party Conferences, Scotland, Social Care, Young carers | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Carers Strategy Launch in Scotland

Note: The following post has been contributed by Lynn Williams, the Policy Officer for Scotland at The Princess Royal Trust for Carers

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Well, we finally reached an important landmark on Monday 26th July, with the publication of “Caring Together”, the new Carers Strategy for Scotland, and “Getting it Right for Young Carers” the UK’s first separate Young Carers’ Strategy.

As we move into one of the most difficult financial periods for decades the Scottish Government has allocated approximately £5.5 million to the Carers and Young Carers’ Strategies – and all of this will go to the voluntary sector. £5 million will be focused on developing and expanding innovative respite and short break services for unpaid carers and young carers.

The Princess Royal Trust for Carers has been directly involved in helping to shape the content and actions of both documents.

Key highlights include:

  1. Creating a Carers Rights Charter – the Government is also consulting on legislating for carers to have access to Direct Payments in their own right.
  2. Investing in carers training, building on an existing £281,000 investment during this financial year.
  3. Improving the identification of carers by health and social care services
  4. Making carers’ own health and wellbeing a priority
  5. Promoting carer-friendly employment practices and encouraging income maximisation
  6. In a Scottish and UK first, it includes a separate strategy on young carers – “Getting it Right for Young Carers”. This includes a range of actions which will help professionals from a range of agencies to better identify and support young carers to achieve their full potential.
  7. An investment of £150,000 to The Trust to develop a 4th Scottish Young Carers’ Festival in 2011, which will help review progress in implementing “Getting it Right for Young Carers”.

Carers and young carers in Scotland will directly benefit from the welcome additional investment in a range of ways, demonstrating the Minister for Public Health’s commitment to carer and young carers’ issues in Scotland.

As a carer going through our own crisis situation at home, I know how hard we will all need to work to ensure that both documents are fully implemented. Much still needs to be done, and the strategies are a brilliant starting point.

We retain some concerns about what happens now that the strategies have been published:

  • The need to ensure that sustainable funding is in place for Carers’ Centres and young carers’ projects. They continue to experience a substantial increase in demand for support in their local areas, but in many cases, with no increase in funding to deal with this.
  • The Concordat between local and national government which means that there is no compulsion on local authorities to implement the strategy documents.
  • As we move toward unprecedented public sector cuts, the strategies make a clear case for investing in support for Scotland’s 657,000 carers and 100,000 young carers. However, the fact is that carers and young carers are still an easy target when cuts are being sought – recent developments at Westminster in relation to benefits and feedback from local areas in Scotland demonstrate this.

It is vital that an implementation plan is put in place as quickly as possible with all key players ‘signed up’ to take things forward. The Trust has a key role to play in this.

Carers’ Centres and carers can also use the documents at local level to hold councils, health boards, Community Health Partnerships and others accountable. How are they implementing the documents; what actions are they taking locally to improve carer support; what are local authorities doing with other partners to ensure that young carers have the chance to be children and young people first?

So, we are on the next stage of the journey – and we are under no illusion about the challenges which lie ahead in implementing both the vision and actions within each document. We would urge carers to speak to their local MSPs to ensure they are supporting and pressing for the strategies to be implemented. Meet with your local Councillors to ask how local authorities will take the strategies forward.

We will also be working with Carers’ Centres to ensure that decision makers are fully aware of the brilliant work that they do, how this benefits carers and what carers and young carers need to enjoy a quality life in their own right.

Keep campaigning!

Lynn

Note:

The Independent Budget Review report was published yesterday (29th July). Lead by Crawford Beveridge, it outlines that no part of public sector spending should be exempt from cuts. John Swinney has invited all political parties to look at the findings and the options for Scotland’s budget in future. Members of the public have been asked to contribute ideas about public spending. Please take some time to submit ideas and highlight the importance of maintaining funding for carer support.

See below for more information:

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/About/IndependentBudgetReview

http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2010/07/29082429

July 30, 2010 Posted by | Budget, Carers Strategy, Scotland, Uncategorized, Young carers | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment