Meeting the demands of the new Carers Act

Written by: Heather Noller, Policy & Parliamentary Officer, Carers Trust

Published: 29/03/2018

Graphic of twelve people standing in a line holding hands, in multiple colours

In our latest opinion piece, Heather considers the increasing identification of unpaid carers after the implementation of the new Act.

The Carers (Scotland) Act still feels a little bit like a step into the unknown, even though it’s been more than two years since the Act’s passage through the Scottish Parliament. That two years has been full of meetings, informal and formal consultation, and plenty more behind-the-scenes activity for services (see my previous post for further details…) and the Act will commence on 1 April. I’ve been out and about talking to carers, carers’ centres and other services about what the Carers Act will mean for them and, frustratingly, there’s still a low level of knowledge about what the Act will do and whether the recognition of carers will increase. The final Carers Charter (this link will take you away from our website) was published at the beginning of this week, which sets out the rights of carers under the Act and is a good starter or refresher for those who want an easy-read guide to the Act.

Realistically, not much will change. The commencement date falls on April Fools’ Day and Easter Sunday, which might dilute the impact somewhat. Easter eggs and pranks aside, those who’ve read the transitional provisions regulations (this link will take you away from our website) line by line will know that most carers will not see a transformation in their assessment or support from this point forward. Services will begin to see an increase in demand for assessment and support, but it’s not known whether this will be a sharp rise or a steadier increase. The Scottish Government are expecting a slow increase in the number of carers accessing an Adult Carer Support Plan (ACSP) in the Act’s first year, but as the Act aims to identify greater numbers of carers and broadens the scope of who is entitled to an assessment, it’s likely that carers who are informed and aware of their new rights will choose an ACSP.

Many more carers will go to their local carers’ centre (this link will take you away from our website), which are a key part of the preventative support framework for carers and vital to the successful implementation of the Act, particularly around information and advice provision and support with emergency planning. However, research carried out by the Coalition of Carers in Scotland last year found that 95 per cent of carer services were seriously concerned about their funding or contracts, particularly as several funding streams that have been used to provide carer support are coming to an end. Keeping up with current demand is challenging enough when there’s not enough transparency and stability of funding, and when time that should be spent supporting carers is taken up with negotiating a tender process. An increase in demand for services that have been working at capacity for decades will be even more challenging. Unpaid carers and the services that support them deserve better.

Carers Trust Scotland and the National Carer Organisations remain concerned about the resources accompanying the Carers (Scotland) Act and the potential for underestimating demand. We’ve been working with MSPs across the political spectrum to highlight the issues of unknown demand and under-resourcing, and a motion (this link will take you away from our website) tabled by Anas Sarwar last month has received cross-party support. Further information is available in our Health and Sport Committee briefing paper (this link will take you away from our website). The Act’s commencement at the end of this week will hopefully be the catalyst to focus resources and planning and ensure that this legislation that we’ve worked so hard for really is fairer for carers.

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