Carers struggling to access rights under Care Act: report

The Care Act 2014 has made little difference to the lives of some 5.4m unpaid carers, a review has found.

Paul Burstow, a Liberal Democrat health minister under the coalition government, led the review for the Carers Trust and said that in the worst cases carers were ‘fobbed off’ by local authorities and unable to access newly created rights.

The Act took effect on 1 April 2015 and was intended to give carers rights on an equal footing to those for whom they care.

These included that when deciding eligibility for support, local authorities must take into account a carer’s health and wellbeing, family relationships and their need to balance their home life with education or work.

Burstow said his report had found: “For many of the carers…the response was stark – the act had made no difference. It was news to some that there were new rights as they simply hadn’t heard of them.

“We found evidence that when it comes to an assessment, the law is either poorly understood or ignored by those responsible. Too often it appears that carers are fobbed off with a one-off payment by local authorities as if that discharges the obligation to promote the carers’ wellbeing.”

The review received more than 800 responses, of whom only 21% felt that things had changed as a result of the Act.

Among respondents, 65% said they had not had an assessment, 69% had not noticed a difference in their circumstances since the Act came into force and 23% of those assessed felt their assessor was ‘not knowledgeable’.

It transpired that many carers do not see themselves as such, which presented problems for local authorities in correctly identifying and supporting those the Act was intended to help.

Carers Trust chief executive Gail Scott-Spicer said: “The Care Act was widely welcomed when it was introduced, but it’s clear from our report that it is not being implemented fully everywhere and carers are not getting the support they need.”

The review panel recommended that national and local government, and the NHS, should invest to ensure that the new legal rights for carers are introduced in all areas.

Local authorities should develop a self-assessment tool to monitor their progress in implementing the Act, the panel said, and should urgently review their carer assessment waiting times and recording systems.

The panel also said NHS trusts and general practitioners should ensure that their organisations are carer-friendly, particularly when the person for whom they care for is being discharged from hospital.

Mark Smulian

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Team @ AberdareOnline

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