Most English councils have been spending carers’ grant money on its desired purpose despite the removal of its ring-fence in 2003, a Department of Health-commissioned study has found.
The University of Leeds study received responses from 63 local authorities on how they had spent the grant between 2005 and 2007.
It showed that the fund had enabled local authorities to develop a range of carer support services, such as home-based breaks and young carers projects.
Social workers inspired
In particular, the establishment of small discretionary payments that could be made to carers on a one-off basis was “inspiring social workers to act more creatively”, said the report. The grant is worth £240m in 2009-10 and is paid to councils as part of the general area-based grant.
However, councils shared concerns that the services were still only touching the “tip of the iceberg” in meeting carers’ needs and that getting the right kind of information to carers continued to be a challenge.
The report recommends that the grant is used to increase the capacity to identify carers not in touch with services or eligible for support and to improve joined-up working between different council departments and partnerships between primary care trusts and other health bodies.
‘Void in information’
Imelda Redmond, chief executive of Carers UK – which instigated the study – said she was “pleased that local authorities had been explicit about how they are spending money on support for carers”.
She added: “But there is still a void in information as to exactly what proportion of that money comes from the grant since the ring-fence was removed.”
“What’s also missing is research into what impact this support is having on carers, this should be the next step for a study,” she added.