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In support of carers – what we found from speaking to 400 carers across Wales

In the drive to transform social care services, support for carers has slipped down local agendas.

Following last year’s Carers Assembly held at the National Assembly for Wales, we wanted to understand more about the experience of carers across Wales.

We are now publishing more detail about our work and what we have found, as part of Carers Week 2017.

What we found

There is strong evidence to highlight the vital economic contribution made by carers and the importance of identifying and supporting carers in their caring role.

Our year-long engagement with carers found some very strong practice in supporting carers, but this is not consistent across Wales.

We found that in transforming services in line with the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014, support for carers has not been at the forefront of planning and delivery for local authorities and their partners.

We identified two types of carers where support was most limited: parent carers for children with complex needs, and carers of adults with mental health needs.

Most local authorities have carers’ strategies in place, but some of these have not been updated to reflect changes under the Act.

There are examples of positive and innovative practice across Wales which would benefit from spreading more widely.

Funding for carer support services remains largely short term.

Carers are not routinely being offered an assessment of their needs nor provided with information, advice or support.

There is a wide range of information available but carers sometimes have to go to several places to get this and it not always easily accessible, especially at times of crisis.

Chief Inspector Gillian Baranski said:

Carers are vital partners in providing care and support for children and adults across Wales.

We recognise this important but often unspoken contribution and wanted to hear directly from carers about their experiences.

We hope this report, with a foreword written by the chair of one of our citizen advisory panels Sheila Meadows, who is herself a carer, helps to re-focus attention and drive improvement in support for carers.

Minister for Social Services and Public Health, Rebecca Evans said:

The Social Services and Well-being Act gave enhanced rights to carers in recognition of the vital role they play in families and communities across Wales.

This report, which provides the all-important carers’ perspective, will help everybody involved in supporting carers to assess whether this landmark legislation is being translated into good practice, and to take action to improve support wherever necessary.

As part of Carers Week, I will be attending a round table event with carers to present the draft outline of our new Carers Strategic Action Plan. I look forward to hearing carers’ experiences and views, which will be used to develop the plan further.

Beth Evans from Carers Wales said:

It is vital that carers are identified and adequately supported to receive the help and information they need to enable them to continue to care.

Unpaid family carers contribute £8.1 billion per year if the care they provide had to be replaced by statutory social or health services.

When the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 came into force on 6 April 2016, it brought with it important new rights for carers across Wales, including a new duty on local authorities to offer carer needs assessments.

Local authorities across Wales must also ensure they have information, advice and assistance services in place and clearly signposted so carers can get the right information at the right time.

Next steps

In the drive to transform services in line with the Act, support for carers has slipped down the agenda, and local authorities, with their partners, need to ensure that carers right to assessment and support is well understood and enacted by frontline staff.

The vital importance of timely access to information, advice and assistance was a key theme repeated by carers, and local authorities need to work with partners to ensure accessible and effective provision.

We will continue to engage with carers as a core part of our inspection and performance review programme with local authorities, as well as liaising with Carers Wales.

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