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04.07.16

‘Unsustainable’ social care system stymieing ambitions of Care Act

Carers are unable to access assessments of their needs from their council despite the passing of the Care Act, a survey from Carers Trust has found.

The 2014 Act gives all disabled people and their carers a right to a legal assessment of their needs, but 65% of respondents in a survey of carers said they had not had an assessment since the Act was introduced, 31% had had an assessment and 4% didn’t know if they had had an assessment or not.

Carers Trust said more action was needed to improve implementation of the Act, with the Department of Health working with local government to identify and promote good practice, especially around the identification of eligible carers.

In his introduction to the report, Professor Paul Burstow, a former minister of care and support, said: “What we found is a mixed picture. There are beacons of good practice, but there is plenty of darkness too. For many of the carers who responded to Carers Trust call for evidence the response was stark, no, the Act had made no difference. Indeed, for many it was news to them that there were new rights.”

The report also found a mixed approach to the value of the assessments, with 34% of carers describing them as helpful, 34% saying they weren’t helpful and 31% saying they were partially successful. In addition, only 26% of respondents received a letter and support plan after the assessment.

However, 21% of respondents said things had changed for the better since the Act passed.

Chris Simmonds, chief executive of the charity Revitalise, has described the Care Act as “failed” after a report by the charity found that 55% of local authorities have spent less on services for disabled people since the Act came into force.

However, Carers Trust took a more positive approach, with recommendations for a number of public bodies on how to improve the effectiveness of the Act.

These include recommending that the LGA works with local authorities, carers and service users to develop a self-assessment tool to monitor councils’ progress in implementing the Act, the CQC checks that staff in care homes and general practice have carer awareness training.

In addition, Carers Trust said Public Health England should raise the profile of caring and the Equality and Human Rights Commission should ensure councils are adopting best practice in fulfilling their obligations under the Care Act, in order to ensure that the rights of BME and LGBQT carers are protected.

However, the report notes: “The social care system is chronically underfunded and unsustainable and requires additional financial support to realise the ambitions of the Act.”

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, the LGA portfolio holder for community wellbeing, said: “Supporting carers is fundamentally important to local government, and this report sets out some helpful recommendations. Without carers, social care and the NHS would collapse.

“The whole sector needs to work together to identify carers, support carers in employment, and ensure they are able to maintain their own health and wellbeing, while raising awareness amongst the wider community of the vital work they do.

“However, the continuing underfunding of adult social care by government has limited councils’ ability to provide support to vulnerable people and their carers.”

The LGA has previously warned that social care is “at breaking point” owing to new funding pressures coupled with cuts.

The government is working with the LGA and social care organisations to develop a Carers Strategy.

The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) has also recommended that public sector organisations do more to support employees with caring responsibilities.

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