Call for better respite services for carers

(Title Image: National Assembly of Wales under Creative Commons Licence BY-SA-2.0)

This week’s short debate was lead by Jayne Bryant AM (Lab, Newport West).

“Like having a second family”

Quoting a constituent, Jayne Bryant said Newport Carers Forum was “like a second family” and gave the constituent an opportunity to speak to others in the same situation. Being a carer was often a 24/7/365 role and carers often ensure families stay together.

The economic impact of unpaid care in Wales is estimated at £8.1billion, yet 72% of carers felt their contribution wasn’t appreciated. They need more support and the strain of caring can lead to carers developing health problems of their own:

“The impact that caring can have on both physical and mental health can be debilitating and long-lasting. The survey conducted last year found that 40% of carers said that they had not had a day off in over a year. Carers need regular breaks to safeguard their own health and well-being, enabling them to continue caring and to allow them to live a life alongside their caring responsibilities. As the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales has said, respite should not be viewed as ‘a break from the burden of caring’.”
– Jayne Bryant AM

Another constituent – a young carer – said they struggled with mental health problems after their mother received a terminal illness diagnosis, but a support group for young carers at their school “helped greatly” and enabled them to take part in fun activities and take breaks.

Bethan Sayed AM (Plaid, South Wales West) wondered whether the quoted figures were correct as they’ve been used for a while; she asked the Welsh Government to carry out work to get an accurate picture of the situation as it is now.

Dr Dai Lloyd AM (Plaid, South Wales West) said that as a GP he was finding that more and more people who would otherwise have been eligible for home care now no longer qualify because the threshold has risen due to a lack of funding.

Recognition of carers “vital”

Deputy Minister for Health & Social Services, Julie Morgan (Lab, Cardiff North) said that work was underway on developing a national young carers ID card. However, securing recognition of carers was vital as the Social Services and Wellbeing Act 2014 grants carers an equal right to support as the person they care for.

“….as part of the remit of the carers ministerial advisory group, its members will be developing ideas and solutions in response to the different issues faced by carers, including new and more flexible forms of respite. I know that some carers are already trialling different ways of using direct payments to purchase respite care or breaks. Since 2017-18, we’ve given £3 million of additional recurring funding to support local authorities to provide additional respite care for carers based on the need of carers in their area.”
– Deputy Minister for Health & Social Care, Julie Morgan

While there were a number of Welsh Government grants and additional funding available for support services for carers, the Deputy Minister accepted there was still a long way to go – though the Act has meant a great deal has been achieved since it was passed.