On April 1st, Scotland took a major step towards extending and enhancing the rights of unpaid carers with the introduction of the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016.
The aim of the Act is to ensure that carers are better supported in their caring role, so that they can continue to care if they wish, and are able to do so in good health with a life alongside their caring responsibilities too.
There are an estimated 788,000 people in Scotland who are caring for a relative, friend or neighbour. This includes 44,000 who are under the age of 18. The value of care they provide is placed in the region of £10.8 billion. The new legislation aims to ensure that carers are supported more consistently, have a stronger voice on issues that affect them, and are better supported to be able to look after their own health and well-being.
To do this, the Act sets out a number of new rights for carers, and duties for local authorities too. One significant change is that carers have now the right to be offered – or to request – an Adult Carer Support Plan (ACSP) or Young Carer Statement (YCS). And any carer can request one, regardless of the number of hours, type of caring, or regularity of their caring role. Instead, this person-focused document will set out what outcomes a carer wants to achieve, and what support they need to be able to do so.
Those who are identified as needing support, and meet locally developed eligibility criteria, will have a right to have that support provided by their local authority. However, even if a carer has not been identified as having needs that require formal support, local authorities are still required to establish an information and advice service for carers which will be available to everyone.
In terms of short breaks, sometimes called respite services, the Act outlines that local authorities must publish and keep under review a Short Breaks Services Statement. This document will contain information to help carers know what support is available locally and nationally to help them have a break from their caring. In addition to this, local authorities are also required to consider whether the support a carer needs should take the form of a break from caring, and consider whether breaks should be provided on a planned basis.
Hospital discharge is also covered by the Act. Health boards have a duty to inform the carer and to invite their views, which must be taken into account, before a cared-for person is discharged from hospital.
Finally, the views of carers are also to be heard in planning and evaluating services that support carers, including local carer strategies, as there is a duty for local authorities and health boards to ‘take such steps as they consider appropriate’ to involve carers and carer representatives.
Shared Care Scotland’s Chief Executive, Don Williamson welcomed this landmark legislation, “The introduction of the Carers Act today marks another significant step forward in strengthening carers rights, and protecting carers from being disadvantaged or discriminated against because of their caring role. Now we must work together to ensure the legislation is working consistently for carers across Scotland.”
For more information visit the Scottish Government’s Carers Charter: https://beta.gov.scot/publications/carers-charter/