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


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.


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 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

MPs Hear Carers Issues

As part of Carers Week, we held an event for new MPs to meet carers. It was set up like speed dating with a couple of carers at each table and the MPs moving around each table after five to ten minutes talking and listening to the carers.

What struck me was that the issues that carers were talking about were not things that MPs or even national government have responsibility for. In contrast, new MPs may arrive at Parliament relishing the opportunity to radically improve things by passing laws or contribute to grand plans. And yet, it seems to be the details that are dealt with at a local level that are what people want focus on.

Carers need children and adult services to work better together. They need local commissioning of support services such as training, emotional support and breaks. They need cooperation between local authorities and hospitals to improve discharge processes. They need health and social professionals to listen to them.

National Government can and have produced guidance on these issues but responsibility for carrying them out is at the local or even individual level.

We saw the powerlessness of MPs when many lobbied their local PCT to spend the Carers’ Strategy money. But despite the Prime Minister announcing the money was to double respite care; despite Government Ministers stating that they wanted PCTs to use the full allocation on carers; and despite MPs writing letters and meeting PCT Chief Executives, many PCTs still decided to use the money elsewhere.

The trend is towards local decision making so the focus on national MPs may become ever more misplaced. May 6th was an important day – there were approximately 9000 councillors elected.

It was good to hear Paul Burstow MP (Minister for Care Services) say in Parliament yesterday that he would never lose sight of carers, but it’s councillors and local health and social care professionals that have the power to change carers’ lives for the better. They don’t need to wait for new legislation or national government, they can make the changes now.

Take Care,


June 17, 2010 Posted by | Carers Strategy, Conservatives, Liberal Democrats, Social Care | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

What price would you pay for care and support?

Janet Jackson and Luther Vandross have a lot to answer for, as their duet “The best things in life are free” has seeped into the nation’s consciousness. We’ll grab whatever is going free, without thinking about the real cost.

My girlfriend recently upbraided me for using the small shampoo bottle in the hotel room. But why? It was free. But using it forces it to be replaced meaning more small plastic bottles which costs the environment.

As individuals in a society, we need to stop ignoring the costs attached to our choices because even if it is not us who pays for it directly, we will in some way.

The Government’s White Paper was launched with their main message that “everyone who needs care when they are old or disabled will get it for free”. Really? Just like that? Of course not, this will cost money meaning somebody needs to pay for it.

Free residential care for people after two years? Wow, have the Government persuaded nursing homes to stop charging? Err, no. And even if they did, there would still be a cost to the nursing home, which might be partly borne by their low paid staff. And so on.

The idea of paying for something from your estate (death tax…) seems abhorrent to many. But would you rather pay it when you are alive? Labour’s proposals will cost money but the fact is that there are millions of people who are already doing that and sometimes paying much more than what these proposals would cost.

Likewise, the Conservative offer of paying £8k at 65 to cover all residential care fees prompts many to splutter at the suggestion of finding £8k. But again, there are already many people spending more than that on care, and some of them are having to sell homes to do so. And those that cannot afford the £8k would not be asked to pay for their social care in the first place.

The upsurge in media and public interest in social care has been accompanied with alarm at the costs of the proposals. What has been forgotten is that there are already many people paying thousands and thousands of pounds, and then also suffering emotional costs because the current system inadequately supports carers and people receiving care.

Even if you read this thinking “I wont need care at home or in residential care so why should I pay?” – think about your mother, father, husband or wife. It is likely that at least one of them will need care. What price would you pay to ensure they get the care and support they need? I would sell my house, raid my pension, use all of my savings but the point is that a good system would mean I wouldn’t have to.

Take care,


The Princess Royal Trust for Carers comment on the proposed National Care Service

And for those real gluttons for punishment among you, feel free to read my summary of the main proposals in the White Paper.

April 1, 2010 Posted by | Social Care | , , , , | 4 Comments

Personal Care Bill: legislating in a rush?

I’m Tom and I have been a volunteer at The Trust for the past 3 months. It struck me earlier this week how, during my time working within the Policy and Parliamentary Affairs arena, I have witnessed two vastly different styles of law making by our government.

When I started in September I was immediately immersed in the world of the Big Care Debate, a lengthy consultation on the creation of a National Care Service (NCS). I was involved in lobbying MPs during the Party Conference season and in questioning Department of Health officials over the finer detail of the Green Paper. Another part of my role was to gauge the opinions of carers through events in the network of Carers’ Centres and through our surveys. Much of this process consisted of highly emotive views from carers and fairly belligerent and guarded responses from officials. Whilst many claimed that the government had made its mind up and would not listen to interested parties some progress was made. David Behan recently said that more would have to be more done for carers in the White Paper due to the weight of feedback from carers organisations. The government also backed down over proposals to scrap DLA although they did not go far enough to protect other vital benefits.

More recently the Government has announced the new Personal Care Bill which promises free personal care for those most in need . They say it is a bridge to the creation of the NCS but as this contradicts the Green Paper, it might be said to step on the toes of the National Care Service (NCS), possibly to have something for Labour to sell to the electorate at the next general election. Few would argue with the ideological stance of giving more help to people who need it, but is the process by which it is being rushed through parliament poor?

However, should we care about the process if the end result is of benefit?

And would it not be better to have this legislation in place before the election as the Conservatives have offered little alternative in this area so far?

Although we are yet to see the results of the NCS consultation (the White Paper), the process by which the legislation has evolved will go some way to ensure that the end product is the correct balance of what is possible and what is desirable for the whole electorate. Proper process has allowed the huge volume of differing opinion around the National Care Service to be aired, scrutinised and taken on board. Whilst free personal care for the highest needs is something that should be available, this should be as part of the NCS, not as part of a hastily put together, unscrutinised plan that is partly, at least, about wining votes.

See our briefing on the Personal Care at Home Bill

Take care, Tom

December 18, 2009 Posted by | Care and Support Green Paper | , , , | 3 Comments