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Preventing Crisis for Scotland’s Carers

Note: This is the first of a three-part blog post from Lynn Williams the Policy Officer at The Princess Royal Trust for Carers. The blog post talks about a recently published Moffat Report, its need and its findings.

So the awful cold weather continues, and the country prepares for the next onslaught of snow and arctic weather.

Yet in homes across the country, unpaid carers continue to provide support to family members despite the cold weather – they battle ice and frost to get out to buy food and to get their loved ones to hospital and doctor’s appointments; they keep the heating on because the person they look after needs to keep warm; they do what they can to ensure the person they support has the best quality of life possible even when mother nature works against them!!

Throughout the political ‘fallout’ over the Government’s response to last week’s chaos, there was very little recognition or acknowledgement of the wider impact of this awful weather on families and unpaid carers.

What it means is that many of the people who could not live without unpaid care are more likely to go into hospital.  Carers may be thrust into an intensive caring role for the first time as family members are hospitalised. Cold weather brings more falls, breaks, ill health; it can exacerbate long term conditions. That creates new carers and puts increased pressure on existing unpaid carers and young carers.

Despite government commitments, policies and strategies, the support that unpaid carers themselves receive in these situations remains a real postcode lottery. Disconnections between hospital and community care still exist; planning for discharge once a loved one gets better is pretty much hit and miss and the chances of the main carer being involved in that process are non existent in some areas. The current and impending cuts in social care services will only make this situation worse.

…Keep a look out for Part II of this blog post “The answer in the Moffat report”…

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December 16, 2010 Posted by | Benefits, Scotland, Social Care | , , , , | 1 Comment

An Essential Triangle of Care

Note: The following post has been contributed by Carole Cochrane, the Chief Executive of The Princess Royal Trust for Carers

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Wednesday 28th July was another hot day in London (well it was for northern based lass). And like many of my London working days it was crammed with various meetings.

The day started with a breakfast review meeting with The Trust’s Director of Fundraising before we both went off to meet with someone who had recently made a significant donation to The Trust (always good to thank in person).

As I say it was a hot day and by the afternoon I was already feeling pretty tired and dishevelled and I had to change into a new set of clothes. Feeling a bit more like a Chief Executive, I headed off to my last appointment of the day which was to launch the Triangle of Care report at the House of Lords.

Tony Baldry MP, Co-Chair of the APPG and a real supporter of carers, was really the person launching the report. I was asked to speak and although I had some points prepared, after talking to carers there I felt that I wanted to speak as a sister of someone with a ‘severe and enduring’ mental health issue.

I talk to so many carers of someone with a mental health issue, who are often worn down with caring and fighting to get good services and I felt that I needed to speak for my parents, my sister and all those other carers who don’t get the chance to do so.

I know only too well the impact my sister’s illness has had on our family unit and in particular on the health of my elderly parents, who are still the ones that pick up the pieces when my sister is ill and again when she is discharged back into the community, sorting out a flat, furnishing etc.

The Triangle of Care report attempts to bring together the carer; the cared for and the professional and get them all working as partners. So many carers tell me they feel invisible when care packages are being put together but are all too often the ones that have to implement and manage the care.

The essence of the document is to clearly identify the six key elements
required to achieve better collaboration and partnership with carers, with good practice examples and resources.

1. Carers and the essential role they play are identified at first contact or as soon as possible thereafter.
2. Staff are ‘carer aware’ and trained in carer engagement strategies.
3. Policy and practice protocols re confidentiality and sharing information are in place.
4. Defined post(s) responsible for carers are in place.
5. A carer introduction to the service and staff is available, with a relevant range of information across the acute care pathway.
6. A range of carer support services is available.

I had a really enjoyable time at the event and spoke to some wonderful carers who I know are hoping that the Triangle of Care becomes everyday practice so their loved ones get the services they so richly deserve.

P.S: had a recent text from my sister who tells me she is really happy – it has been over 25 years since we have heard those words – so I know things are getting better for her and my parents and that is what I am sure those parents that spoke to me on the night long to hear.

August 5, 2010 Posted by | Carers Strategy, Health, Mental Health | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Carers and the Big Society

Note: This post is from our guest blogger Tony Baldry MP who is Co-Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Carers. Tony Baldry MP made a speech at the meeting of The Princess Royal Trust for Carers held in the House of Commons on Wednesday, 28th July 2010.
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Last week, the Prime Minister repeated his commitment to the Big Society making it clear that its’ success will depend “on the daily decisions of millions of people – on them giving their time, effort, even money, to causes around them”. My whole political life has been predated on this same principle.

However, I am concerned at a potential and unintended conflict between the Coalition Government’s very understandable desire on the one hand to promote the Big Society and the need to cut the budget deficit.

In my constituency in Banbury we have the North and West Oxfordshire Carers’ Centre, member of The Princess Royal Trust for Carers and has been successfully running now for nearly two decades.

Such has been the dedication and commitment of the volunteers that the centre has won the Queen’s Award – one of very few such awards in Oxfordshire. The Banbury Carers’ Centre like the Oxford and South Oxfordshire Carers’ Centres are comprised of a mixture of experienced volunteers and some paid staff, enjoying the financial support of the local community.

They help train carers. They provide outreach services for carers. They provide a place where carers and different types of carers can come and meet, share experiences, unwind and support each other.

As we all know, carers come in many kinds from young carers to very elderly spouses still looking after a much loved husband or wife.

In undertaking this valuable work, for many years the Banbury Carers’ Centre has received funds from Oxfordshire County Council to deliver specific agreed services to carers. The reasons the County Council was procuring these services from Carers’ Centres are exactly the reasons set out by the Prime Minister in support of “the Big Society”; Carers’ Centres and their volunteers are exactly the people who are making a difference, are in contact with other carers and are in the best position to understand, articulate and meet carers’ needs. They are full of people who come together and work together to affect social change and to improve life for carers.

As far as I am aware there has never been a suggestion that the Banbury Carers’ Centre or the other Oxfordshire carers’ centres have failed to meet the objectives with which they have agreed with the County Council. However, the Council has to make savings in their budget.

They are proposing withdrawing their funding from the carers’ centres in Oxfordshire and replacing that service by a telephone call centre, almost certainly run from outside of the county to which carers will be able to call.

Part of the justification of this move, in addition to the need to save money, is an assertion that it will help them reach more carers. However, there doesn’t appear to have been any or any real discussion with the existing Carers’ Centres as to the number of carers that they are already reaching.

I would suggest the issue here is that many people who are carers simply don’t recognise themselves as being carers and if they don’t recognise themselves as being carers, they are not likely to ring a carers’ telephone hotline.

We need a collective effort to help carers voluntarily register themselves as carers so that they are recognised as being carers by GPs or by schools if they are young carers. This requires a sustained campaign in GPs surgeries, in the schools, and in the media to make people ask the question “are you a carer?”

I suspect that for many years GPs haven’t been asking the question of whether someone is a carer, because there has been very little that they could do to support them. However, now that PCTs have funds to support respite care, GPs are in a position to refer carers for respite care and short holiday breaks and for that reason alone, one would hope that every GP practice would know which of their registered patients are also carers.

I think the reality is that for many years central government has used local government to support a whole range of social interventions. Money for carers’ breaks is given in part to PCTs and given in part to local Councils. However, if local government is obliged to save money, they understandably start by reducing funding for those organisations for which they have no immediate responsibility.

However, there are a very large number of active citizens undertaking constructive voluntary work within our community who to a certain extent depend on some funding from local government. An alternative, of course is to allow organisations such as the Banbury Carers’ Centre to bid direct to central government to provide carers’ services.

Here we appear to be bedevilled that Oxfordshire County Council has decided to bundle up all its carers’ contracts into a single contract, thus bringing it within the parameters of the EU procurement directives and requiring compulsory tendering. This makes it much more difficult for local voluntary organisations to bid and appears to run completely counter to the desire for localism and the Big Society.

I think we all have to accept that these are particularly difficult and unusual times. No peace time government has had to tackle a similar financial deficit. We need to develop the Big Society. We need to see how we can best reconcile these two policy objectives. However, to start with we have to recognise and acknowledge that there are some real tensions that need to be worked through.

Tony Baldry MP
House of Commons

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July 28, 2010 Posted by | Budget, Carers Strategy, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats | , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Carers and Hospital Staff Discuss Greater Support for Carers

Note: Following is a blog post from our guest contributor Beryl who is the Development Manager (South East) at Princess Royal Trust for Carers

I was at the launch event of The Princess Royal Carers Out of Hospital Report yesterday afternoon and….it was really exciting! Sounds an odd thing to say about a formal do but it was exciting because everyone there was determined to take practical steps to put the report into action and to improve support in hospitals for carers.

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN), represented yesterday by Dr. Peter Carter, fully endorsed the report. He suggested that RCN work together with The Princess Royal Trust for Carers to make the changes that will improve support carers and families receive in hospitals and at discharge.

Carers, carers’ workers and hospital staff were at the launch to tell us about the partnership work they are already doing to change things for the better for carers. In Swindon, for example, the hospital trust have taken a very practical step towards sorting out hospital systems so that carers can be identified and supported.

Jim, who cared for his partner, a patient in Barnet hospital, told us about the difference it had made to him having the support of a hospital based carers worker. Jim made contact with the worker after seeing a poster in the hospital lift. He even called for the better publicity of information about the support available to carers within and beyond the hospital setting: “Aeroplanes should be up there skywriting it!” he said.

Not sure if we can sort out the skywriting but The Princess Royal Trust for Carers will be continuing to work in partnership with the RCN and with hospital trusts, carers’ centres, carers, health commissioners and policy makers to get the word out on supporting carers and families in hospitals and at discharge and on getting that support in place. I’ll report back to you in a couple of months time on how we’re doing. Meanwhile please do feel free to share the Out of Hospital report key messages and statements of support with your local hospital.

July 22, 2010 Posted by | Health | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Out of Hospital” Report Calls for Carer Involvement in Discharge Planning

Note: The following blog post has been contributed by Beryl Cross who is the Development Manager (South East) for the Princess Royal Trust for Carers.

Today is the launch day for The Princess Royal Trust for Carers “Out of Hospital” report and we are calling for the NHS to take practical steps to work together with carers as equal partners when planning for the discharge of patients from hospital.

The “Out of Hospital” project included partnership work between carers, Carers’ Centres and hospitals in Barnet and in Swindon. This afternoon carers, carers’ workers and NHS workers from Swindon and Barnet will be at the launch to share the practical tips that they found worked to get everyone acting together to benefit patients and carers and avoid readmissions to hospital.

I’m hoping the launch will inspire those NHS workers who attend to develop their partnership with carers and in turn help them in changing hospital systems and culture. We’ve already received messages of support from the Royal College of GPs and other NHS bodies so that’s a really positive start.

Have a look at the key messages from the report and it would be great if you could share them with other carers, carers’ workers and NHS planners and staff that you know.

I will be back soon to let you know how the launch went, including what the carer presenting at the launch had to say.

All the best,

Beryl

July 21, 2010 Posted by | Health | , , , , , , | 3 Comments