Note: This is a joint blog from Lynn Williams, Fiona Collie and Claire Cairns who have been leading the National Carer Organisation Election Campaign in Scotland
We are moving into the final days of the election campaign in Scotland and the issues affecting carers and young carers have become a hot topic. Over the last few weeks carers’ organisations have worked hard to ensure that carers and young carers alike have had a chance to question candidates and influence parties’ thinking. Through the press, through on line media and face to face with candidates, carers and young carers have been heard loud and clear on what matters most to them and to their families.
This election marks a turning point for carers; every party has in some form or another directly recognised their contribution with a string of manifesto pledges made which seek to improve carers’ and young carers lives.
We very much welcome specific pledges which seek to involve carers and young carers at the very heart of Government in Scotland. These commitments include Scottish Labour’s pledge to install a Cabinet level Carers’ Champion who can lead and work across all policy areas in Government. The party is also pledging to set up a Carers’ Summit to enable a Scottish Labour Government (or coalition administration involving Labour) to shape policies and decisions affecting carers’ lives (link to Labour party pledges to follow).
The SNP have pledged to deliver an annual Carers’ Parliament to give carers and young carers a direct say in the work of the Government and the Scottish Parliament. http://manifesto.votesnp.com/carers.
If realised, any one of these commitments will give carers and young carers a voice in shaping decisions that affect their lives at the highest levels of Government.
Other parties such as the Scottish Lib Dems are looking to extend the rights that carers have and improve local service delivery. http://www.scotlibdems.org.uk/files/SLD2011manifesto.pdf.
Labour join the Lib Dems in pledging to investigate a right to respite for carers. http://www.scottishlabour.org.uk/uploads/938e3455-1814-0b84-e115-8ddec3a327b5.pdf
Meanwhile, the Scottish Conservatives have costed a substantial investment in additional respite and many of the smaller parties have made a range of commitments to carers. http://www.scottishconservatives.com/downloads/scottish-conservative-manifesto-2011.pdf
Carers’ issues are indeed one of this election’s hot topics. But one commentator in the press recently said that manifestos are not worth the paper they are written on – and that might well be the case.
But as part of Scotland’s Carers Organisations we are making our own pledge to you – that we will work together tirelessly to bring parties to account whether in Government or opposition on the pledges they have made. We will continue to work directly with Ministers and MSPs in opposition to build on what has already been achieved for Scotland’s carers; we are also already planning for the Scottish Local Elections next year – service delivery locally is a key concern.
So there is much to look forward to and much still to do. Please continue to work with us to help make the lives of Scotland’s carers and young carers the best that they can be – to ensure that their contribution is truly recognised. Our Scottish Carers’ Manifesto – shaped by carers and young carers – will continue to be the basis for our campaigning work at national and local level. You can also continue to have your say on our ‘Carers Votes Count’ Facebook pages.
To the 5th May and beyond!!
Lynn, Claire and Fiona On behalf of Scotland’s National Carer Organisations
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:
- Creating a Carers Rights Charter – the Government is also consulting on legislating for carers to have access to Direct Payments in their own right.
- Investing in carers training, building on an existing £281,000 investment during this financial year.
- Improving the identification of carers by health and social care services
- Making carers’ own health and wellbeing a priority
- Promoting carer-friendly employment practices and encouraging income maximisation
- 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.
- 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.
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:
Well the starter pistol was sounded by Gordon Brown on Tuesday and we’ve begun the race to the the General Election on 6th May.
Never before have carer issues been so central to an election – with the three main parties and media picking up on funding for social care and respite issues in recent months.
But what does this all mean for Scotland’s 657,000 carers and 100,000 young carers.
First, whilst many of the issues you will hear being discussed may not seem to directly impact on Scotland, funding for things like social care and health come to Scotland via the Treasury’s funding.
Second, any future cuts to public spending will impact on Scotland through the Barnett Formula and this will impact on what the Scottish Government has to spend, and in turn, what local authorities will have in their coffers from next year onwards. The Concordat between Scottish and local government has changed how money is allocated to local authorities and how local authorities then spend this.
This all means that we need to make sure that the needs of unpaid carers remain high on the campaign agenda both during and after this General Election. Whichever political party wins, we can expect unpaid carers in Scotland to be affected by the work of the new UK Government both directly, through any proposed changes to welfare benefits for example, and indirectly via the Treasury’s settlement for the Scottish Budget.
Contact your local party representative to ask what they will do to ensure unpaid carers are supported in their role and have a life outside of caring. Ask them to explain their party’s plans for social care and health. Ask them to campaign for increases to Carers’ Allowance and to ensure that Cold Weather and Winter Fuel payments take account of unpaid carers.
In Scotland, we will continue to work with all political parties to ensure unpaid carers are a high political priority and that this is reflected as the Scottish Government moves to set its budget for 2011 onwards.
And use your vote! If you can’t get out of the house, you can get a postal vote. Like Gordon said in March, your vote matters and your vote as a carer means that the voice of carers in Scotland is heard loud and clear during the election.
As a carer myself, I will certainly be at my local polling station first thing on 6th May…
PS, The BBC have put together a really handy map that lets you explore all 650 UK constituencies that are up for grabs in May.
Devolution in Scotland has caused some in England to look enviously northwards and ask why is it that they’re getting stuff that people in England are not.
I was at a Mark Thomas comedy gig the other night where a radical suggestion was for eye tests to be free, until I pointed out that they already are in Scotland. Then of course, there is ‘free’ personal care in Scotland, which isn’t actually free but people aged 65+ do receive contributions towards nursing/residential care costs or care at home.
What is not reported is that to fund these policies, the Scottish Government has to find savings in other areas – they have to re-order their priorities.
The Lib Dems announced a re-ordering of their priorities this week, which has meant a focus on fair taxes, extra investment in schools and improving transport and energy production. A loser in this re-ordering has been their commitment to provide a Scottish style system of personal care funding, which has been put on hold until it “becomes affordable again”.
The Conservative Party have also made some policy announcements publishing their draft health manifesto (does this mean it could change?) this week:
– £10 million a year funding beyond 2011 to support hospices in their work with children
– preserve disability living allowance and attendance allowance and allow a single budget for individuals combining health and social care funding
– provide separate public health funding to local authorities, which will be accountable for–and paid according to–how successful they are in improving their local communities’ health.
It also included their previously announced social care policy of people paying £8000 on retirement to receive free residential care, but there’s no announcement yet on their domiciliary care policy…
Politics is all about choices; the choices politicians make and the choices the electorate makes. There may be some issues on which you agree with one party, but on a different issue it is another party you agree with. So we have to make a choice about what our priorities are when voting.
Politicians know this so focus on issues that they think voters care about. “It’s the economy, stupid” is meant to illustrate that the economy is the priority for voters. British politicians often believe the NHS is, while Blair and now the Lib Dems think education is a priority for voters.
What is clear is that for social care to be considered a priority by politicians, we must first make it a priority in how we vote. Folks, it is time to consider our priorities.
PS. There are Parliamentary outreach events on 26th January in Birmingham, Manchester and Norwich advising how people can effectively engage with Parliament, and understand its inner workings. If you’re interested you can find the details here.
My work involves speaking to policy and decision makers in Scotland to ensure carers’ needs across Scotland are recognised and met and that they are able to lead fulfilling lives which take account of their caring role.
I can’t believe that I’m in the fourth month at The Trust already. There’s been so much to learn over the last few months and in the course of my visits I’ve met some truly amazing people – carers and colleagues from Carers’ Centre who are completely committed to ensuring carers get the support they need.
I’ve had to learn fast, but I have had the chance to get a view of the landscape for carers in Scotland. I want to share my thoughts about where we are in policy terms. I think that we could be standing on the cusp of something exciting.
Firstly, all political parties acknowledge the contribution carers make and the public money saved because of what they do every day.
Secondly, through current policy developments – and there are lots of these – the Scottish Government acknowledges the critical nature of the support provided by carers for wives, husbands, partners, children and other family members and friends.
And over this last year, there has been work to develop a new Carers’ Strategy for Scotland, which will include specific actions for young carers.
Positive things are happening…
The Cross Party Group on Carers met again on 5 November. At this meeting, parent carers from East Renfrewshire spoke openly about the pressure of caring on their lives and the lives of their families. They talked about the vital support provided by their local Carers’ Centre. The local authority’s lack of accountability was quite clear in the stories they told.
The Cross Party Group let carers’ voices be heard in the Parliament – MSPs attending included Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s new Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Health, and Cathy Peattie, a carer champion and Chair of the Cross Party Group.
We met with the Scottish Liberal Democrats in September. They were very interested in the local focus and approach of Carers’ Centres in Scotland – as well as the impact of the recession and the banking crisis on funding sources accessed by The Trust and the Network of Centres.
Polly Jones, Head of Strategy and Policy for the Lib Dems, has been incredibly supportive and working with her, we secured a direct mention of the Network of Carers’ Centres and funding issues by both Ross Finnie and Robert Brown in a recent debate in the Scottish Parliament.
In that same debate, Johann Lamont’s (Labour) support for the work of Centres was clear and Des McNulty (Labour) also mentioned the work of The Trust and Carers’ Centres in Scotland.
And we are meeting Michael McMahon in early December. Michael was recently appointed to Labour’s shadow cabinet with a responsibility for local government. We will seek to raise with him some of the challenges outlined below and raise the profile of the Network.
We want to secure the support of MSPs and The Trust will continue to be directly involved in key policy developments – the new Carers’ Strategy, the planned Dementia Strategy, Reshaping Care and so on – to ensure these policies mean real action for carers; that they increase the accountability of local authorities and not lead to an increased burden for unpaid carers.
We have the opportunity to begin looking at carer entitlements; there is a political will to look at how health and social care services – including carer support, training, information etc – are funded and there is clear cross-party recognition that without the work that carers do, health and care services would collapse.
But it’s not all good news…
As Gordon has said before on here, recognition is not enough – and that message has been loud and clear as I have visited and spoken to carers and Carers’ Centre colleagues across the country.
People have opened their hearts and told me their stories, highlighting the continuing difficulties that carers face across Scotland – services such as respite/short breaks have been stopped, support packages are pulled without consultation.
I’ve been told about parent carers being threatened by social workers (yes, I DID say threatened).
Carers have talked about having to move house to access the help they need, or to get support for the people they care for.
And across the country, I get a real sense from speaking to carers that the Concordat agreed by the Government and COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) two years ago has not always resulted in improved carer support or better carer outcomes.
Recognition has not led to better lives for Scotland’s carers and there is a real risk that gains achieved over the last few years could be lost.
I don’t always feel as positive as I would like – especially as the impact of the recession on public spending is only now becoming clear and local authorities publish spending plans which mention cuts and increased charges for services.
This is why I need your help…
Your views and input can help us make sure carers get the support they need and the recognition they deserve. I need YOUR help. If you let us know what you think, we can make sure we don’t lose this opportunity to shape a better future for all of Scotland’s carers and young carers. Please comment.