Alex Cunningham – 2015 Parliamentary Question to the Department of Health

The below Parliamentary question was asked by Alex Cunningham on 2015-10-19.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health, what assessment his Department has made of the implications for its policy of the Carers Trust report on local authority support for carers, published on 16 September 2015; and if he will make a statement.

Alistair Burt

The Government recognises the valuable contribution made by carers, many of whom spend a significant proportion of their life providing support to family members or friends.

That is why we continue to support implementation of the improved rights for carers enshrined in the Care Act 2014. The Department has provided £104 million of funding to local authorities for these rights in 2015/16, which include an extended right to assessment and, for the first time, a duty on local authorities to meet carers’ eligible needs for support.

To support implementation of the reform programme, we have established a joint Programme Management Office between the Department, Local Government Association and Association of Directors of Adults Social Services (ADASS). This unprecedented partnership is driving collaborative working with the sector, influencing the local implementation of these changes to support a consistent and coherent approach. This approach was recognised by the National Audit Office as best practice and should be adopted by other programmes.

The programme includes a series of stocktakes of Local Authority readiness and the latest, from June 2015, demonstrates an overall positive picture on implementation:

– Councils’ confidence in their ability to deliver the Care Act Reforms in 2015/16 remains high, with 99% very or fairly confident.

– 89% of councils say that they are ‘on track’ with their implementation. The remaining 11% report themselves as only slightly behind.

We have also produced a suite of implementation support documents around the new carers’ rights, one of which is The Economic Case for Investment in Carers, a short factsheet for local authorities to use in considering whether to put in place a policy of charging carers, setting out the evidence that charging would be a false economy. This expands on the position set out in the Care Act statutory guidance, which at paragraph 8.50 states that:

“Local authorities are not required to charge a carer for support and indeed in many cases it would be a false economy to do so. When deciding whether to charge, and in determining what an appropriate charge is, a local authority should consider how it wishes to express the way it values carers within its local community as partners in care, and recognise the significant contribution carers make.”

The Care Act replicates the previous position where charging carers was permissible. It would not have been appropriate to impose a blanket ban on charging for carers services, because in some cases small charges are necessary to the viability of services. However, the Care Act provides additional protection to carers by making it clear that local authorities cannot charge carers for services provided to the person being cared for. This means that carers may only be charged for services provided directly to them.

Most local authorities do not routinely charge carers in recognition of the valuable contribution carers make to their local communities, and the Carers Trust report confirms that this is still the case. We will continue to make the case against routine charging of carers and to monitor the situation closely through the implementation monitoring process set out above.

We have no plans to create a new duty around NHS identification of carers. The Care Act requires NHS bodies and local authorities to co-operate with each other in the exercise of their respective functions relevant to care and support, including those relating to carers, so we would expect local authorities and NHS bodies to cooperate in identifying and signposting carers. The Department is working with ADASS and NHS England to produce a “local pathway” for carer identification and support that will set this out in more detail.

The Department has also provided over £2 million in recent years to the professional bodies such as the Royal College of General Practitioners and the Royal College of Nursing, as well as Carers UK and the Carers Trust, to develop initiatives to raise awareness of carers among healthcare professionals and to help identify and support carers.

The Department is also leading on the development of a new National Carers’ Strategy that will be looking at the best of international practice and examine what more we can do to support existing carers and the new carers.