Birmingham researchers find new law fails to deliver on unpaid carers

Researchers from the University of Birmingham and a leading care charity say that one year on since its introduction, the Care Act has made little or no difference to the 5.4 million carers in England.  

The team carrying out the review, which was led by Professor Paul Burstow, at Birmingham and facilitated by UK charity, The Carers Trust, found that 68% of all respondents said nothing had changed under the Care Act.

The researchers spoke to a range of unpaid carers looking after their sick or disabled family and friends. They also spoke to health and social care professionals to find out how well they thought the new act, which entitles carers to an assessment of their needs, was working.

The review, found a ‘mixed picture’ with examples of good practice, but in many cases it also found that the act had made no difference to carers. In some instances, carers had not even heard about the measures that had been introduced, which could support their needs and well-being as a carer.

Professor Paul Burstow at the University of Birmingham said:

‘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.

‘We know it’s early days, but more work must be done to impress upon those responsible for the day-to-day implementation of the act that business as usual is not good enough.’

The new care law came into effect on 1 April 2015 and gave carers rights on an equal footing to the people they care for.

This includes taking into consideration the carer’s health and wellbeing, family relationships and their need to balance their home life with their education or work.

If found to be eligible, they are entitled to support sometimes funded by their local authority. In addition, all local authorities must provide advice and information and prevent carers’ needs from getting worse.

The review garnered more than 800 responses, which included evidence from three days of oral hearings where a panel heard personal accounts from carers as well as from leading health and care providers and carers groups.

Summary of findings:

- Only 21% of respondents felt that things had changed as a result of The Care Act 2014

 - 65% of carers who responded said they had not had an assessment, while 4% didn’t know whether or not they’d had an assessment

- Only 5% of respondents were non-white, suggesting that the act was failing to be implemented in Black and Minority Ethnic groups

- 31% had received an assessment and described the quality as good

ENDS

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Notes to editors

Panel recommendations:

- National, local government and the NHS, urgently need to invest in support for carers to ensure that their new legal rights are being introduced in all areas. This will ensure carers receive the support and breaks they need.  

- The Care Act support programme should continue supporting councils with resources and training to ensure its full implementation of the Care Act for carers.

- Local Authorities with the LGA/ADASS, should work with carers and service users to develop a self-assessment tool to monitor their progress with implementing the act. As part of this they should urgently review their carer assessment waiting times and recording systems, to ensure that carers receive timely support.

 - NHS Trust providers and GP practices should review their policies to ensure that their organisations are carer-friendly, in order for carers to be  identified, involved and consulted, particularly when the person they care for is being discharged from hospital.