Have unpaid carers noticed any difference since the Care Act came into force?
When the Care Act 2014 came into force on 1 April 2015 it was heralded as the most significant change in social care law for 60 years. One of the headline changes it introduced was, for the first time, putting those providing care on an equal legal footing to those who they care for.
The Care Act outlines important principles for the provision of care and support and places duties on local authorities for the promotion of individual well-being, the prevention of needs from developing or deteriorating and the reduction of needs that already exist. The wellbeing principle and prevention duties apply equally to carers as well as those to receiving care.
One of the important developments for carers within the Care Act was the introduction of the right to an assessment of the carer’s needs for support. These assessments should be offered to all carers regardless of the level of support they are providing and the local authority need not wait for a carer to request an assessment. Following assessment, the Act provides a right to carers to receive services in circumstances where their needs meet a nationally set eligibility threshold. The Act also places an obligation on local authorities to provide all carers, including those who are not assessed as eligible for support, with information and advice on local support services.
Undoubtedly, the Care Act has provided a vastly improved set of rights for carers. What remains to be seen however, is the extent to which these new rights are being realised particularly against a backdrop of cuts to local authority budgets.
The Carers Trust has recently published the findings of its review of the implementation of the Care Act: “Care Act for Carers: One year on”. They gathered evidence from unpaid carers in England and sought to address the question: have carers noticed any difference since the Care Act came in?
The findings from the review are mixed. The report details “beacons of good practice” and sets out that generally Councils reported feeling positive about progress. However, the review revealed that many of the carers who responded were unaware of their rights under the Act.
Whilst there is evidence in the report of assessment working reasonably well for some carers, the report details that 65% of the carers they surveyed had not received assessments under the Care Act. Of those responding who had received assessments, 34% felt that the assessment was “not helpful”.
The report makes a number of recommendations including: further investment in the support needed to ensure that the new legal rights for carers are being introduced in all areas; that social workers and assessors have appropriate training and are able to reflect the wellbeing principle in assessment and care support planning; and that Local Authorities and other agencies review their systems for monitoring progress in implementing the Act ensuring they capture all assessment and support activity for carers.
It seems clear from what some might describe as an early review, that implementation of the Care Act for carers is far from complete however, the Act has been widely welcomed and there remains optimism about its “transformative potential.”
The full report by the Carers Trust is available at https://carers.org/sites/files/carerstrust/care_act_one_year_on.pdf