A Charge on Caring?
Analysis of the Use and Impact of Charges by Councils Providing Support to Unpaid Carers
Under the new Care Act (Department of Health, 2014a), which came into force on 1 April 2015, all carers, regardless of their level of care or financial situation, are entitled to a needs assessment provided or arranged by their local authority.
These needs assessments are used to determine whether the carer meets the new national eligibility criteria for receiving support to help them perform their caring role. If they are deemed eligible then the local authority is required to provide the carer with a support plan detailing the type of support they will be able to offer.
This is vital support. Carers often struggle with poor mental or physical health as a result of caring for someone else. Many rarely get a break and often find it difficult to juggle staying in work alongside caring. 42% of carers have not taken a break of more than two days since they started looking after the main person they care for (The Princess Royal Trust for Carers, 2011). Many become isolated as they lose touch with friends and family. The relatively small amount of support provided is not a ‘nice to have’ – it is essential in enabling carers to stay well and therefore able to carry on caring.
The types of support a carer could expect to receive will vary according to their assessed needs, and will depend on their personal preference and what they think will help them most, for example:
- It might include funding for breaks to enable a carer to take time away from their caring role, do something for themselves, spend time with others who matter to them and stay socially connected, or money to attend social groups and evening classes, or for a laptop to stay connected to family members.
- It might also include funding for relaxation or yoga classes or a gym membership to help the carer keep physical and mentally fit.