New research published today by Carers Trust suggests that last year’s Care Act has made little or no difference for many carers.
Those of us trying to highlight the issues faced by carers will often emphasise the “hidden-ness” of their world. Carers tend not to identify themselves as such. This might be because they don’t realise that they’re carers or because they feel their needs aren’t as important as the sick or disabled relative or friend they’re looking after. Either way, they won’t stick up their hand and ask for support.
This is why the UK Care Act, which came into force in April 2015, is such an important piece of legislation. It puts the onus on local authorities to assess the needs of unpaid carers, the impact of caring on their health and wellbeing and their ability to balance their role as carers with their education or their work. Depending on the results of the assessment, councils are then meant to step up and provide support. In other words, it gives carers the same rights as the people they care for.
But a review published today by Carers Trust, the UK’s largest charity for unpaid carers, found that 65% of carers said they hadn’t even had an assessment. “The law is either poorly understood or ignored by those responsible,” says Rt Hon Prof Paul Burstow, the former government care minister who led the review.
One of the carers told researchers: “I continue to have zero personal support after a mental breakdown.”
Some 37% of respondents who had had an assessment said they'd not received a letter or a support plan after it. A further 4% of carers didn’t know whether or not they’d had an assessment. And only 5% of respondents identified themselves as non-white — suggesting that the law is failing to be implemented in black or minority ethnic groups.
But the Care Act clearly has the potential to make a big difference — 31% had received as assessment and they described it as good. One of them told the researchers: “Knowing that I have the right to be asked if I am ‘willing and able to continue caring,’ has stopped the crucifying assumption I have a duty to care until I drop.”
Another carer said: “It is the only time in the year when I am asked about me.”
Carers Trust is now calling on local councils, NHS Trust providers and GPs to ensure the new legal rights for carers are being introduced. “We know it’s early days,” says Prof Burstow, “but more work must be done to impress upon those responsible for the day-to-day implementation of the act that business as usual is not good enough.”
Here’s a link to the full report: http://carers.org/sites/files/carerstrust/care_act_one_year_on.pdf
Here's some more information about the review: carers.org/care-act-carers-one-year-commission
If you are a carer and want to know more about how to get an assessment, you can find out more here: http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/social-care-and-support-guide/Pages/carers-assessment.aspx
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