28 November 2014
Article written by Amy Clifton, National Assembly for Wales Research Service
Friday 28 November 2014 is Carers Rights Day – A day which brings organisations across the UK together to help carers in their local community to know their rights and find out how to access help and support.
This year’s theme is ‘Looking after someone? Know your rights’, focusing on:
- Making carers aware of their rights and entitlements
- Letting carers know where to get help and support
- Raising awareness of the needs of carers
Events are being held across Wales and the UK to celebrate carers and deliver these messages.
The Welsh Government’s Refreshed Carers Strategy (2013) states,
A carer can be anyone, of any age, who provides unpaid care and support to a relative, friend or neighbour who is disabled, physically or mentally ill, or affected by substance misuse.
The Strategy notes that unpaid carers are the single largest provider of care in our communities – Carers Wales states that 97% of all community care in Wales is provided by unpaid carers, contributing £7.7 billion a year to the economy.
The 2011 Census shows there are 370,230 people providing unpaid care in Wales, representing 12.1% of the population. Since 2001, there has been an increase of approximately 30,000 people (3%) providing unpaid care in Wales. The Census found that 103,748 people in Wales are providing 50 or more hours of unpaid care a week.
Welsh legislation and policy
Carers Strategies (Wales) Measure 2010
We currently have specific carers legislation in Wales which came into force in 2012 – the Carers Strategies (Wales) Measure 2010 requires Local Health Boards (LHBs) and Trusts to lead partnership work with local authorities to prepare, publish and implement Carers Strategies in their area.
However this will not be the case for long as the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 repeals the Carers Measure (NB: The repeal has not yet been enacted).
There was opposition to this repeal, particularly from the Wales Carers Alliance, and during scrutiny of the Bill at the Assembly, an amendment was passed to attempt to replicate some aspects of the Measure: Section 14(3) of the Act now maintains a duty on LHBs to report to Welsh Ministers on any sections of their local health and wellbeing strategies which relate to carers.
However the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Bill, (introduced in July 2014) if enacted as currently drafted, repeals section 14(3) of the Act.
Carers organisations are concerned that the duty on LHBs and Trusts, to lead and report specifically on carers issues will no longer stand. The Wales Carers Alliance sees this as an oversight in the legislative process which incrementally dilutes the legal status of strategic planning for carers. The Alliance believes that the most straightforward way to resolve this issue would be not to enact the repeal of the Carers Strategies (Wales) Measure 2010. It notes that local carers strategies could then be included in the list of matters that must be taken into account when undertaking wellbeing assessments under section 36 of the Bill.
The Minister for Natural Resources recently wrote to the Environment and Sustainability Committee (which is currently scrutinising the Bill), stating that he does not consider that the Bill will result in any diminution in legislative provision relating to carers needs. He states that he believes the planning and reporting provisions in the Bill provide comprehensive mechanisms for ensuring that the needs of specific groups are considered.
In its Stage 1 report, the Environment and Sustainability Committee states it is concerned about recent legislation being amended almost immediately after becoming law, specifying changes for carers as a particular example. The Committee is concerned that this shows a lack of strategic approach to legislation in key areas of social policy, and risks inadvertently creating gaps in provision. The Committee recommends that the Welsh Government reviews schedule 4 and the approach to local wellbeing planning, particularly in relation to the ‘health in all policies’ approach and the needs of carers, children and young people, to ensure that a sufficiently robust approach to these issues is achieved in the planning process.
Refreshed Carers Strategy for Wales
Following consultation in 2012, the Welsh Government published a Refreshed Carers Strategy for Wales in 2013.
The consultation document proposed as an action that the Welsh Government would, ‘develop an outcome-focused model of alternative care, to ensure that all carers have regular breaks from caring’.
However the final Strategy wording was amended, and now states that the Welsh Government will ‘develop a shared understanding of alternative care, and how it can be used to achieve positive outcomes for carers and those they care for…’
Some members of the Wales Carers Alliance have questioned whether progress has been made to enable carers across Wales to have time off from caring, particularly in light of the Census finding that 103,748 people in Wales are providing 50 or more hours of unpaid care a week.