The government will work with councils to develop a sector-led improvement programme aimed at ensuring unpaid carers receive the support they are entitled to under the Care Act 2014, as part of a new strategy published yesterday.
The Carers Action Plan 2018-20, drawn up by the Department for Health & Social Care, also includes measures to raise awareness among health professionals and employers of the support carers need.
The government says it will recognise carers “in a far broader sense” than the definition in the Care Act 2014, which placed them on the same footing as those they care for, because “thinking too narrowly” could result in support not being available to those who need it.
As well as the sector-led improvement programme, the DHSC will fund a “project on actions” to promote best practice for councils, clinical commissioning groups, providers and commissioners on respite care and carers breaks for councils.
This will include promoting the option for carers to use personal budgets or direct payments to pay for alternative temporary care arrangements.
The strategy also said the DHSC will fund support for carers to navigate the transition from child to adult services.
Healthcare education and training for unpaid carers is also being developed and will be included in the health and social care workforce strategy due this summer.
Steps will also be taken to implement guidance for social workers supporting carers to improve practice where necessary.
NHS England and the Care Quality Commission will develop “quality standards” for GP practices and identify “exemplar models” for supporting carers of people with dementia.
Care minister Caroline Dinenage will chair a review of progress on the commitments in the action plan twice a year.
Responding to the strategy, the chair of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board Izzi Seccombe (Con) said supporting unpaid carers is a “top priority” as without them the “safety net” they provide would “collapse”.
She added the strategy also needs to focus on the welfare of young carers and carers that have not yet been identified or recognised by the system.
Cllr Seccombe added: “As a society, we need to do more to ensure the role of a carer is seen as a positive, rather than a stigma, and we are keen to work with government on the implementation of its action plan, making sure that carers are fully supported and signposted to services to avoid them and families reaching crisis point and care breakdown.
“However, if we are to achieve our aspirations for all carers - who are needed in increasing numbers to address the rise in those needing care - and fulfil the ambition and intent of the Care Act, government needs to plug the funding gap facing adult social care and support which is set to exceed £2bn by 2020.”