Gwenda Thomas AM, Deputy Minister for Children and Social Services
This statement on Carers is the third in a series of statements that I intend to publish over the coming weeks updating you on the policy proposals that will form the Social Services and Well-Being (Wales) Bill.
The overarching aim of the Bill is to embed public bodies’ promotion of the wellbeing of people who need care and support and to support carers in a way that is consistent with the well-being of carers and the people for whom they care. It also aims to define the responsibilities of local government and its partners to people who need care and support and carers, and the rights of individuals. It will, for the first time, provide a coherent framework for social services that ensures a strong voice and real control and will simplify the legislation that currently regulates social care in Wales to make access to services much easier and more understandable to those who need them.
Informal carers provide an invaluable contribution to society. There are over 350,000 carers in Wales, 90,000 of whom look after family and friends for at least 50 hours a week. That is why I want them to be central to this transformational agenda for social care. Having considered the consultation responses and reflected further on how we might strengthen the support available to carers I have decided to align the provisions relating to carers with those dealing with people who need care and support in their own right. This means, that for the first time, carers will have equivalent rights to those people that they care for. My proposals will include measures to ensure that local authorities and local health boards:
- understand the characteristics and needs of their local population including carers;
- provide or arrange the provision of a range and level of services including preventative services to carers which are accessible within the community;
- ensure that carers can readily access information, advice and assistance about the type of support and services available in their community and to help them to understand how the care and support system works.
At an individual level carers will:
- have a right to an assessment of their needs for support without the need to formally request an assessment. A local authority’s duty to assess will be triggered where it appears that the carer may or will have needs as part of their caring role
- have a right to support where their need is one that meets with eligibility criteria to be set out in regulations
- where they have eligible needs, have a statutory support plan that the local authority must regularly review,
In addition, local authorities will continue as they do now to have wide discretionary powers to provide services to carers irrespective of whether the carer is deemed to meet the eligibility criteria.
This represents a comprehensive package of measures to enhance support to carers and is testimony to our commitment to them in recognition of the enormous contribution that they make.
There is a long road ahead and this new direction in our response to the needs of carers is part of our journey to renew social services in Wales. Clearly there is still much to be done in order to build the necessary capacity and capability within the sector to deliver the changes we have set out. However, as we plan for implementation of these important social services reforms I intend to work with carers’ organisations and other key partners in order to ensure that what we are seeking to achieve for carers is workable and sustainable. More generally, I will also be consulting shortly on the next phase of our Carers Strategy which will build on what has been achieved in terms of policy, legislation and service development for carers since the Strategy was last reviewed in 2007.