Carer consultation

The Care Act 2014 and Carers in Devon

The Care Act 2014 gives new rights to adult carers of adults, and also to Young Carers and Parent Carers of children with additional needs who are approaching adulthood. These will be implemented from April 1st 2015.

“The Care Bill in many respects marks a quiet revolution in our attitudes towards, and expectations of, carers. At last, carers will be given the same recognition, respect and parity of esteem with those they support. Historically, many carers have felt that their roles and their own well-being have been undervalued and under-supported. Now we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to be truly acknowledged and valued as expert partners in care”

Dame Philippa Russell, Chair of Standing Commission on Carers

In Devon we are already well ahead, having Carer Health and Wellbeing Checks as a form of carer assessment, and having well respected carers’ services on which to build.

Our preparations are well advanced – we have:

  • consulted with carers on important aspects of how to implement the Act
  • new improved arrangements for carer assessments, particularly in the form of Carer Health and Wellbeing Checks, through Devon Carers and participant GP Practices
  • a new ‘offer’ for carers, outlined below, which we believe will improve upon the current arrangements particularly for carers in most need

Our consultation focused on five proposals. A special newsletter was sent out, letters were sent to 2,500 Take a Break (TAB) users, and four public meetings were held. The consultation was highlighted on the Devon County Council and Devon Carers websites. 250 carers sent personal responses (online, telephone or post) and about 40 attended the meetings. The Council is very grateful to all carers who took time to participate. The Council considered all responses and the potential impact of decisions (‘equality impact’), before coming to a final view.

Proposal 1: about ceasing to provide services on an open access basis and implement the requirements of the Act through a new ‘carer offer’

There was considerable feedback on TAB but little on Flexible Breaks Grants (FBG). Carers were very clear about the importance of respite, and expressed concern about the change to the TAB service. There were suggestions about how the service could continue. However, the Council concluded that it would not be able to meet its new duties for people with eligible needs under the Care Act whilst also maintaining TAB as an open access service.

The Council therefore decided to close the schemes, and implement transitional arrangements for carers who use TAB.

The Council is very clear about the importance of breaks and these will continue to be available for people with eligible needs.

All carers who have TAB currently will be written to personally over the next few months to explain the new arrangements and the options open to them. No-one’s TAB vouchers will be withdrawn without notice, and the letters explain this in more detail.

All carers who have recently applied for a FBG will also have a personal letter explaining their options. The new Carers’ Personal Budgets cover the kinds of things carers have used their FBG’s for in the past. Carers who meet the new eligibility criteria (which are set out in the Care Act 2014), after a carer assessment (usually a Carer Health and Wellbeing Check) may be able to have a Personal Budget to meet their needs. Again, the letters explain this in more detail.

Proposal 2: Charging carers

Carers expressed considerable worry and concern about this proposal, citing a number of negative effects they felt would flow from a decision to charge.

Having taken account of feedback from the consultation with carers, undertaken between December 2014 and January 2015, the Council can confirm at this point that there will be no charge for services offered directly to carers in relation to the new carer offer. This will be kept under review as the impact of the Care Act becomes clearer

Proposal 3: the new carer offer

Overall the new carer offer, developed with carers over the last 12 months, was well received. A number of useful suggestions were received and the offer was amended to reflect that advice. The offer will be developed and kept under review as we gain experience. The new offer is outlined below.

Proposal 4: Personalisation and the Devon Card

On balance feedback was positive but there were a number of questions and reservations. We realise that a lot more information is needed so carers feel confident about how things will work in the future. While the Devon Card will be the “default” offer, if this is not the best choice for a carer, other options are available– a Direct Payment into a Bank Account or where appropriate personal budgets delivered in other ways. No-one will be obliged to have a Personal Budget pooled with that of the person they care for.

Proposal 5: Improving equality for carers

We asked for ideas on how to develop our response to groups currently under-represented – for example take up of carers’ services is lower among men.

Carers suggested closer targeting and timing of messages and advertising to where under-served groups would see it and relate it to their own position, and diversity in the workforce; also adaptation of approaches in some circumstances.

We will continue to use the feedback in developing our strategy and services for carers.

Going forward

Access to the best possible information, advice and signposting to services and other opportunities is crucial to carers and this is at the forefront of our approach.

New style carer assessments are available now via Devon Carers. A simple, “light touch assessment” is available by telephone, and this can lead on to a Carer Health and Wellbeing Check.

Over the next few months we will be talking with carers who have been in receipt of services under the previous arrangements about how their needs can best be met under the new carer offer.

The Care Act defines ‘replacement care’ (for example, like the TAB service) as a service to the person with care needs, so it is subject to a financial assessment of the person with care needs. Where a carer assessment indicates that replacement care is likely to be necessary to meet a carer’s eligible needs, Devon Carers will, with the carers’ consent, liaise with social services to request that replacement care is reflected in the care plan of the person the carer cares for. Again there will be more information in the letters TAB users receive.

The new offer

The new offer is simply structured; more detail will be placed on the Devon Carers website and in the next newsletter:-

  • Universal – for all carers, e.g. information and advice, the Devon Carers Helpline, the Alert Card.
  • Targeted – to help prevent needs from developing, e.g. courses to help carers protect their health while they care.
  • Personal – where a carers assessment (often as a Carer Health and Wellbeing Check) finds that the carer has needs which meet the national eligibility criteria – and this may include a Personal Budget.