An ‘alarming’ number of carers of people with end-of-life conditions are facing long delays in getting assessed for support under the Care Act 2014, a report has warned.
A survey of more than 6,000 carers carried out by Carers UK revealed nearly a third (29%) of all carers who’d been offered a carer’s assessment, or requested one, waited at least six months to be seen.
The percentage was higher (39%) for those supporting people who had a palliative or end-of-life condition, a finding the charity described as “alarming”.
Care Act duties
Under section 10 of the Care Act 2014, which came into force in April 2015, councils in England must carry out an assessment of a carer of an adult where it appears that they may have need for support. Previously, carers needed to be providing a substantial amount of care on a regular basis to qualify for an assessment.
The survey found just half of all carers had been offered (28%) or asked for (22%) a carer’s assessment since the legislation came into force.
Heléna Herklots, chief executive of Carers UK, said: “One year on from the Care Act coming into force and carers’ lives have not improved – in fact, compared with last year, more carers believe their quality of life will get worse in the next year.
“If the Care Act is to deliver on its promise to improve support for carers, the government must set out a clear expectation of when carer’s assessments should be carried out, alongside investment in the care and support services that are desperately needed to backup families.”
Concerns over assessment quality
Feedback from carers who had been assessed revealed a number of concerns over the quality of assessments:
- Only a third (36%) felt the assessment properly considered the support they needed for their own physical and mental health.
- A similar proportion (33%) felt their need for replacement care to allow respite from their caring duties was properly taken into account.
- One in five (21%) felt they received little or no helpful information after the assessment. A further 45% felt they got some but not all the information they needed.
The report said: “The strong message that came through in the feedback was that carers feel their assessment might look at their need for support but this did not meant they received support as the outcome of their assessment
“Many carers felt that the money or services are not there for the local authority to provide them with the support their assessment found them to need so the assessment ended up feeling like a tick box exercise. It is fundamental that carers’ assessments lead to positive outcomes and give carers the support they need, rather than just acknowledging their need.”
Juggling caring and work
Issues with the support provided to carers who also have paid jobs was highlighted in the survey. Almost a third (31%) of carers said the support they needed to manage working alongside caring was not properly assessed and half of those surveyed had given up work to care.
Carers cited more domiciliary support, help with tasks like shopping and support with coordinating care as key areas that would help them remain in or return to work.
Carers UK said the findings showed the promise of the Care Act “had not become a reality for all”. The charity called on local authorities to review how carers were supported.
Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS) president Harold Bodmer said:
“This survey makes for uncomfortable reading for any director. We warmly welcomed the emphasis and the support for the 5.4 million informal carers in England built into the Care Act. It is clearly unacceptable when this support isn’t available but it does need to be recognised that the Care Act is being implemented at a time when local authority social services departments are facing unprecedented financial pressures.”
Bodmer said the association would want to work with Carers UK and other partners to respond to the findings and influence government policy.
Minister for community and social care Alistair Burt said: “We recognise the invaluable contribution that unpaid carers make to society. The Care Act introduced significant new rights for carers but we know that they are not yet as fully embedded as they need to be – that is why we are working hard with the sector to support and challenge Local Authorities and share the great practice that already exists.”
Burt urged people with caring responsibilities to respond to the Department of Health’s consultation for a new strategy to support carers.