Rebecca Evans Minister for Social Services and Public Health
Today, on Carers’ Rights Day 2016, I want to reiterate the Welsh Government’s commitment to supporting carers: the husbands, wives, parents, children, relatives, friends and neighbours who provide unpaid, but invaluable, care to some of the most vulnerable people in our communities. As a government, we recognise the vital role that carers play across Wales.
The Welsh Government has long sought to improve the lives of carers. In 2000, we published our Carers’ Strategy for Wales, which provided a framework for delivering services and support for carers. Ten years later, the Carers Strategies (Wales) Measure 2010 was introduced, further improving support for carers locally. The ground-breaking Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 enabled us to build on our progress and strengthen our commitment to carers.
The theme of this year’s Carers’ Rights Day is ‘Missing out? Know your rights as a carer’, and is a timely opportunity to reiterate the enhanced rights for carers that the Act brings. Now, for the first time, carers have an equal right to assessment and support as those they care for. They no longer need to demonstrate that they provide significant care in order to have their needs assessed, enabling more people to be recognised as a carer – an issue we know is important to the caring community – and receive the support available to them. While the onus was previously on carers to request an assessment, the Act places a statutory duty on local authorities to proactively inform carers of their right to be assessed, helping to ensure that no one misses out on the opportunities to which they are entitled. Once that assessment has been completed, if the carer is eligible, the local authority is required to meet those needs identified and put a statutory care plan in place. We know that it can be difficult for carers to find the right information and advice, which is why the Act requires local authorities to ensure this information is easily accessible and clearly signposted.
Central to the Act is the ethos of prevention and intervention. This means putting steps in place to support people before their situation escalates. Carers play a crucial role in this, often enabling the people they care for to remain in their own homes and communities, maintaining their independence and dignity. We recognise the strain this can cause which is why, under the Act, local authorities must ensure that there are a range of preventative services available for people and carers to access for support.
As a government, we know that the only way we can achieve our ambitions for the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act is through integration and partnership-working. Seven statutory regional partnership boards have been established, with membership spanning local authorities, health boards and the third sector. Each board is required to have representation from a carer, ensuring that the carers’ perspective is always at the heart of the agenda. As a priority, the boards are required to work together to assess the extent to which there are people who need care and support, and carers who need support, within their populations. This will enable them to ensure appropriate structures and resources are in place to provide effective integrated services, targeted at the right people in the right way.
While the Act provides significant gains for carers’ rights in Wales, it is important that we recognise the progress already made by local authorities, health boards and the third sector under the Carers’ Measure, such as working to mainstream carers’ issues, improve early identification and empower carers in decision making. £2million of funding has been allocated over the next two years to support the transition to the significantly enhanced duties of the Act for carers.
We are currently refreshing our Carers’ Strategy to reflect the enhancements to carers’ rights and set out the key priority areas and actions that will be taken to support carers. This will be a strategy developed in partnership with carers’ networks, organisations and carers themselves, building a sense of joint ownership and capturing the issues that matter. Carers have told us that they want to be recognised and identified for the work they do; they want easy access to the right information and assistance; and they want support for their lives outside of the caring role, including the option of respite care. We will develop a range of actions to address these priority areas. This will include exploring the provision of ID cards for young carers and examining a national approach to respite care. There is a wealth of expertise and experience embedded within organisations, public bodies and communities which we will build on to ensure carers receive the support they need. Our formal consultation on the refreshed strategy will be launched in the New Year.
On behalf of the Welsh Government, I would like to publicly thank carers across Wales for their dedication and commitment to improving the lives of the people they care for, and encourage them to exercise their rights and take up the support to which they are entitled.