Don’t get me wrong, I completely think that carers need, deserve and are entitled to a lot more support than is available presently.
The Carers Allowance is, quite frankly, an insult to those who put in so many hours and whose lives are changed by the amount of care that is put in (as well as, on a less emotive level, the amount of money that is saved by both the NHS and Social Services). Also (for what its worth) it’s linked to Disability Living Allowance/Attendance Allowance and is means-tested. All of which contribute to its inefficiency.
But the call for personalised budgets seems to be, as far as I can garner, more or less the same as Direct Payments for Carers – which is explained much better on the Worcestershire County Council site (thank you, Worcestershire – and no, I don’t work there – actually, I don’t think I’ve ever been there!) as follows
‘Support for Carers
A Direct Payment can be provided to enable family and informal carers to purchase the services they are assessed as needing as carers to support them and to maintain their own health and well-being.
A Carers Assessment and Support Plan should be completed to identify the impact of caring on the person’s life along with the support they require to continue caring or to take a break from their caring role.
Carers are able to use Direct Payments to purchase support in any variety of ways including:
- Short breaks for themselves and/or the people they care for;
- Personal assistance within the home;
- Sitting services;
- Social, education and leisure activities;
- Transport costs;
- Relaxation, stress management and holistic therapies.
Some of the intended outcomes of using Direct Payments for carers are:
- Promoting social inclusion through greater opportunities for carers to actively participate in family and community life;
- Greater opportunities for the personal development of carers;
- Promotion of the carer’s health, well-being and coping skills;
- More responsive, timely and consistent methods of providing support, with greater opportunities for creativity;
- Values the essential contribution carers make to family life and the wider community.
Under the service, young people, aged 16-to17-years, are also eligible to receive Direct Payments to support them in their role as young carers and to minimise any difficulties or isolation they may experience in undertaking their caring responsibilities’.
I have to say I like the direct payment scheme as it works for carers because it is incredibly flexible. Indeed, I’d say it is the easiest way to provide direct support to carers and in the most visible way – so I’ve got a fair amount of experience using it.
In a lot of ways, it is a lot more flexible than the direct payments provided for service users because it can be used for ‘anything that would support the carer’ – so gym membership, travel costs, parking costs, washing machines – there is the ability to be much more creative. ‘
And it exists now – today and has been used with frequency.
So that’s why I didn’t really understand the call by the IPPR for personalised budgets with no comment about what is actually happening in social services departments to support carers today. Maybe they are calling for more money to be a part of the personalised budgets (a good thing) or more control (although the control can be basically in the hands of the carer themselves), more exposure to issues that matter to carers or less scrutiny from local authorities who provide the funding.
I suppose I’ll have to actually read the whole report rather than just the reporting of it!
I noticed that Sophie Moullin from the IPPR wrote about this in the Guardian and from what she says, I can’t see any difference in the new system she proposes to what is actually, legislatively in place at the moment.
I am absolutely in favour of anything that will help though and if the proposed system will ringfence more money or provide more exposure or utilisation of services then I’m the first person to applaud it.
But to promote the new system which has a lot of links with Carers’ Direct Payments without discussing the failings of that particular system and to look at the issue as if this system didn’t exist, seems not to be giving a true picture of the situation as it is today. Perhaps more needs to actually be done to increase awareness of the system as it exists today and promote use and access to it.