Do we Care About our Carers?

Posted on: 12.06.2012    14:57:28

It is estimated that 1.25 million people are forced to juggle work and family life with caring for elderly relations are to be given legal recognition and rights to respite holidays for the first time.

As they spend up to 50 hours a week, in addition to other activities, to give each carer 25 hours of respite would involve needing 15,000-20,000 additional additional carers + administrative support and cost a minimum of £0.5bn to run.

This number is in addition to the 500,000 receiving domiciliary care, a sector that has its own deep seated recruitment problems owing to government generated pressure on already low margins.

The so called “sandwich generation”, who care for their elderly parents while supporting children, are expected to gain a new entitlement to services to help them look after their families. Under government plans, councils will be required to arrange support such as short “respite” holidays, assistance with transport or training in care techniques but how will this be funded?.

Charities and campaign groups have warned that informal, unpaid “carers” are often forced to give up their careers and suffer from isolation at home. Their own health can deteriorate as a result and is a hidden cost to society that is not easily measured.

Experts say state services such as the NHS would face collapse if hospitals had to cope with the individuals who receive informal care from family members at home. Currently, councils are obliged to assess the needs of carers but there is no requirement to provide services to help them. This is likely to change.

Among schemes that the government appears to be backing is one encouraging doctors to prescribe short holidays for those who spend much of their time as carers. Social services would provide care and services for the elderly while their relations take a break.

The plans follow a recent report from the Law Commission, which recommended that carers should receive new legal rights to services and improved carers’ assessments. The rights would apply across the country to end the current “postcode lottery” of support. Financial support is likely to be means-tested.

Under the Law Commission’s plans, which will form the basis of the White Paper, councils would have a duty to consider whether a carer wishes to work, or to undertake education, training or any leisure activity. Both carers and the disabled people they support would be assessed for their “wellbeing” and councils would have a new duty to provide carers’ services.

It is inevitable that more adults will be forced to care for their relations as longevity increase in the decades ahead.
Mr Burstow, the Coalition minister backing the plans, suggested that GPs should consider prescribing support for adults who care for frail relations, and follow the example of a practice in Cambridgeshire that prescribed short breaks for carers. “Rather than just saying ‘take two of these tablets and come back in a fortnight’, they can do things like prescribe a three-day break, or support a carer to take the one they care for out for the day,” he said. “This sort of social prescribing is a great way of giving a carer a break rather than picking up the pieces once they’ve had a breakdown.”

All well and good but where is the money going to come from and who is going to provide the care?

Cross-party talks are under way on reforming social care funding. The Dilnot Commission recommended introducing a cap of £35,000 on the lifetime care bills that individuals will be expected to pay, with a more generous means test for the poorest. Under the plan, the state would meet any bills above this level, although the accommodation element of residential care home bills would still need to be covered by individuals. An estimated 20,000 people are forced to sell their homes to pay for care each year. The Treasury is reluctant to agree to the Dilnot plans, which would cost an estimated £1.7 billion more each year.

So if the government does go ahead and local authorities are empowered to pay rates that enable the private sector to pay more attractive rates where are the carers going to come from?

Commenting Chris Slay of International Recruitment Agency Skills Provision said.” The government has cut off access to sources of supply from countries such as Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam as you simply can’t get visas. This restricts Employers to the European Union and here the traditional supply centres are governed as much by exchange rates as anything else but the weakness of the Euro is making the UK look more attractive at present. Most domiciliary care jobs are filled by a mix of national and international candidates but the sector doesn’t help itself by needlessly complex pay packages that are a challenge to make transparent and many Eastern Europeans often feel mislead when they get their first wages leading to a high attrition rate. Let’s face it caring for the old and often infirm isn’t for everyone and to expect complex care to be offered in exchange for rates not much above national minimum wage is unrealistic moving forward. This isn’t a national skills shortage but an international one and increasingly people know their value. In theory you should be able to get English speaking, Greeks, Spaniards, Portuguese and Irish to consider positions but many are opting for places like Australia rather than remaining within Europe.

The industry needs to build bridges with the education sector as well and care apprenticeships is a national need and would certainly help the transition from education to employment and would be a grow your own scheme for the future.”


Author: Chris Slay

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