Flagship social services law “undermined by cuts”

(Title Image: BBC Wales)

Health & Social Care Committee
The Impact of the Social Services & Wellbeing Act 2014 on Carers (pdf)
Published: 21st November 2019

“Looking ahead, the role of the carer will become even more important given the demands of an ageing population with increasingly complex health needs.

 

“In view of this, it is disappointing to hear that things have not improved for carers under the Act, In fact, for many that we heard from, cuts to local authority and health service budgets have meant that vital support services are not being delivered.”
– Committee Chair, Dr Dai Lloyd AM (Plaid, South Wales West)

1. The Act has been underfunded and many carers haven’t noticed any improvements

The headline finding from the inquiry was that the Act’s provisions – whilst enjoying broad support – haven’t been effective due to cuts to council budgets. Any optimism that the Act would build upon previous measures to improve the lives of carers has subsequently faded.

While the Committee agreed that carers’ rights have been strengthened, this hasn’t been accompanied by a better overall experience for them; many witnesses told the Committee that the Act hasn’t had any measurable impact on their lives and in some cases may even have worsened.

The number of people receiving a formal needs assessment was said to be low, with just over 2,000 carers receiving a support plan between April 2017-March 2018. This was said to be, in part, because many carers don’t recognise themselves as such and believe what they do was a natural part of their relationship with a cared-for person.

The Welsh Government has commissioned a full independent review of how the Act has impacted people giving and receiving care and will break this down to the Act’s impact nationally, regionally and locally. This report, being drafted by the University of South Wales, is expected to be published in 2021.

The Committee recommended the Welsh Government prepares a clear action plan for addressing failings in the Act’s implementation by next summer.

2. There’s a reluctance to engage with social services

More people refused a needs assessment (6,891) than undertook one (6,178) in 2017-18.

There was said to be a fear around getting involved with social services, with a perceived stigma attached and fears that the cared-for person may be removed if the carer can’t cope or a loss of independence – all concerns said to be more prevalent amongst older carers (80 years old+) and carers of people with dementia.

The language around the assessments was also believed to be around how well the carer is performing rather than what they need.

Long waiting times were also said to be an offputting factor, with evidence from witnesses stating 39% of cared-for people who were near the end of their lives waiting longer than 6 months for an assessment.

3. There’s no one size fits all approach which works

“We’ve got a 90-year-old that comes in…Ninety-three – she’s got a 60-odd-year-old son with Down’s Syndrome. On a daily basis, she says, ‘I’m only here until he goes. As soon as he goes, I can go’…. ou don’t know where they’ll live, who’ll support them, who’ll look after them.”
– Dot Gallagher, Chair of Mencap Cymru

In total, there are an estimated 370,000 carers in Wales with 100,000 of them providing more than 50 hours of unpaid care a week. 21,611 carers are under the age of 24 and 7,544 of those are under the age of 16; Wales has the highest proportion of young carers in the UK. More than a quarter of young carers under the age of 16 miss the equivalent of 48 days of school a year.

The Committee recommended a young carers ID card should be rolled out as a national scheme.

The third sector was said to be an important provider of services to carers – particularly those who aren’t receiving services as a result of a needs assessment – but their funding situation is insecure. Swansea Council called for a three to five-year funding model to allow more effective planning for services.

The Committee also recommended that minimum standards of advice and guidance for direct payments – used by cared-for people to make care arrangements themselves – is provided across Wales.

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