Senedd marks Carers Week (but disagrees on the way forward)

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The Issue

Unpaid care saves taxpayers billions of pounds every year, but it can place a mental health and social strain on carers – who usually care for close relatives.

While official support is available for carers – such as local council payments and carer’s allowance – unpaid care can interfere with a carer’s career, social life and educational prospects.

The Welsh Conservatives used their weekly debate to highlight the issue, but there was quite a bit of disagreement between different AMs and parties on what needed to be done.

The Motion (Amended/Final Version)

The Senedd:

  • Notes that 11-17 June is Carers Week 2018.
  • Recognises the vital contribution made to Welsh society by Wales’ estimated 370,000 unpaid carers.
  • Recognises that unpaid carers save the NHS and social services in Wales over £8bn per year, yet a vast majority of carers feel their contribution is not valued or understood.
  • Acknowledges that the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 gives carers a right to have their own needs as a carer assessed and for eligible needs to be met by local authorities.
  • Welcomes the Welsh Government’s national priorities for carers and the formation of a Ministerial Advisory Group on Carers to ensure implementation of the Social Services and Well-being Act makes a real difference to the lives of carers.
  • Calls on the Welsh Government to ensure consistency across all parts of Wales in the roll-out of a young carers’ card (which should include access to discounted transport); ensure all pharmacies are implementing guidance to allow young carers to pick up prescription medication on behalf of those they care for; ensure young carers receive appropriate training in the administering of medication for those they care for.

Key Points

Suzy Davies AM (Con, South Wales West)
For (the motion): The value of carers is massively underestimated.

  • 11% of the Welsh population provide some form of unpaid care; it’s the equivalent of twice the NHS workforce and is worth £8billion a year.
  • Most amendments to the motion were made in the right spirit, but one Welsh Government amendment deleted a point which would’ve held the Minister to account (publishing figures on assessments under the Well-being Act); there was little evidence the Well-being Act was improving the lives of carers.
  • She was disappointed the other parties reject the idea of a young carers future grant – the idea was warmly welcomed by young carers themselves.
  • Suzy also argued against some of the other proposed amendments including one which opposed zero hour contracts (flexible working might be beneficial for carers).

Bethan Sayed AM (Plaid, South Wales West)
For (if amended): Listen to those who’ve worked with carers.

  • We can’t be serious about tackling problems with the welfare system if we’re unwilling to take some control for ourselves.
  • The uncertainty caused by zero hour contracts makes them an economic barrier for young adult carers.
  • Organisations like the YMCA should be consulted as they’ve already done some of the work on carers that the Welsh Government are seeking to do themselves.
  • Access to transport has been mentioned as a problem by carers.
  • Young carers should be allowed to get medicines from pharmacies for the person they’re caring for – they may well be too young, but often have no choice.

Caroline Jones AM (UKIP, South Wales West)
For (if amended): Changes are necessary.

  • UKIP won’t support Plaid Cymru’s amendment calling for the devolution of welfare, but changes do need to be made.
  • It was “perverse” that young carers were often forced to make a choice between either full or part-time study or receiving carers allowance.

Angela Burns AM (Con, Carms. W & S. Pembs.)
For: We need to be kinder.

  • “Care” can mean different things. She knows of a person took a very elderly neighbour to Morriston hospital in their battered car despite having little means and being barely able to afford the petrol: “What can you do to help?”
  • Young carers miss, on average, 48 school days because of care responsibilities.
  • Some decisions made in relation to carers are cruel; a teenage carer was put in detention for failing to finish homework on time, while a mother and (carer) son were told they could only move to a bungalow if the son got rid of his dog.

Janet Finch-Saunders AM (Con, Aberconwy)
For: Remember the older carers.

  • 24% of unpaid carers in Wales are over the age of 65 – the highest proportion in the UK.
  • Respite services should be more flexible; instead of a weekend or week-long break, it should include short-term cover to enable a carer to run errands or socialise.

Dr Dai Lloyd AM (Plaid, South Wales West)
For (in principle): “The clock is ticking”.

  • Austerity has resulted in a lifting of the threshold to receive help; you often need a very serious illness to receive care at home.
  • People living into their 80s or older often have multiple illnesses which effectively leave them housebound with the responsibility falling on an often elderly husband or wife.

Mohammad Asghar AM (Con, South Wales East)
For: Carers save taxpayers substantial sums of money.

  • Every £1 spent of carers saves councils £1.47 and the wider health system £7.88.

Vikki Howells AM (Lab, Cynon Valley)
For (if amended): Teachers need support to help and identify young carers.

  • Knows first hand the experiences of young carers as a former teacher; it’s often difficult for teachers to recognise carers until problems at school are stripped away until they find out they’re caring for a relative.

Welsh Government Response

Minister for Children & Social Care, Huw Irranca-Davies (Lab, Ogmore)

  • Carers are starting to feel valued because of the support provided by the Welsh Government and other partners.
  • Under the Well-being Act, carers now have as much of a right to support as the person they care for; more than 6,200 care assessments were undertaken in 2016-17.
  • £1million has been provided to support progress towards national priorities for carers and £3million has been provided to support respite care.
  • Every higher education student will be entitled to financial support equivalent to the living wage, including carers.
  • Carer ID cards are being developed so young carers don’t have to keep proving their carer status when asked by authorities; discussions are ongoing as to whether this can include help for transport costs.


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