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The rights of carers were top of the agenda at a special carers' summit which focused on the Carers (Equal Opportun...
The rights of carers were top of the agenda at a special carers' summit which focused on the Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act 2004 which was brought forward last year.

Speaking at the summit yesterday, health and social services minister Brian Gibbons emphasised the need for everyone to play their part in making sure that all carers have the help and support they need to live a normal life.

Dr Gibbons said: 'The Carers Act 2004 will have a great impact on services and support for carers. For the first time carers will know what their rights are and how to access services that are available to them. Their needs in terms of work, education and leisure will now be considered in all assessments. By involving other statutory agencies in the planning and provision of services for carers people will start to realise that carer issues are not just a matter for social services but need to be embedded in the policies, procedures and practice of a much wider network of agencies.

'Another key issue is 'heads-up' working. It is very easy for people to keep their heads down in their own specialities or own areas of work. People need to look up to see what their colleagues are doing so that they can all work together to improve services. A vital part of heads-up working is communication with the people who matter - the people who need services to help them lead ordinary lives. When the Assembly first sat down to write the carers' strategy we didn't start with a blank piece of paper and write down what we imagined carers priorities were. We went out and asked carers themselves what they wanted.

'In the same way local assessments of needs, and the planning, modelling and commissioning of services should reflect what people actually need and not what others think they need.

'We are all aware of the demographic changes that Wales faces. Over the coming years we can expect to see more older people and relatively fewer young people. Of course not all older people will need support and I'm sure as people are living longer they are also remaining healthy for longer and are able to maintain their independence. But we need to think carefully about the effect these changes will have on the demand for services and the services we ought to be providing.

'We all need to recognise the contribution carers make and harness that contribution by providing the help and support they need to sustain their caring role.'

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