The purpose of this note is to summarise and explain the contents of the Carers (Scotland) Bill particularly those parts of the Bill that refer to Short Breaks or breaks from caring.
Shared Care Scotland is working on its response to the consultation and our initial thoughts are included in this briefing note. This is work in progress and we would welcome your feedback and ideas.
You can also respond directly to the Scottish Parliament: (note – closing date 22nd April 2015):
People with caring responsibilities are invited to send their responses here:
Further links to the Carers (Scotland) Bill can be found here, including a handy carer’s guide to how legislation is made.
Download this Briefing Note as a PDF document: SCS Carers Bill Briefing (v090415)
Read the Third Sector Position Statement on the Carers Bill: NCO_Third_Sector_Statement_on_Carers_(Scotland)_Bill
On the 9th of March 2015 The Carers (Scotland) Bill was introduced to Parliament. For the first time, the Scottish Government has introduced legislation specifically for unpaid carers.
The proposals set out a range of measures to improve the identification and provision of support to carers, including the introduction of a new duty on local authorities to support carers who are assessed as needing support, and who meet eligibility criteria. This is a change from the current system where local authorities only have the power to support unpaid carers, but not a duty. The benefit of this approach is that there is a firm statutory footing for supporting carers.
Specifically the Bill does the following, amongst other things:
- replaces the current carer‘s assessment with a new adult carer support plan (ACSP) and provides a young carer statement (YCS) for all young carers;
- provides for the establishment of an information and advice service for carers in each local authority area;
- introduces a *duty to support carers whose needs cannot be met by general services in the community (including the information and advice service). The carer‘s needs must meet local eligibility criteria in order for the duty to apply;
- requires local authorities to prepare local carer strategies for their areas; and
- requires local authorities and health boards to involve carers in carer services meaning services provided by the local authority or health board to carers and cared-for persons.
*The Bill will provide both a duty and a power to support carers but under the duty, the local authority will be obliged to support carers in accordance with eligible needs.
The Carers (Scotland) Bill and Short Breaks
Providing opportunities to have breaks from caring responsibilities is now widely accepted to be vitally important in helping to protect carers health and well-being, and to sustaining caring relationships. However, government data and other research have shown that the availability and choice of short breaks across Scotland varies considerably. Furthermore, we know from our own studies that carers often struggle to obtain accurate and up-to-date information about the different short break services available in their area, and how these are accessed.
These are not recent problems, the Care 21 Report into the future of unpaid care in Scotland highlighted these concerns and consequently promoted a vision, ‘By 2014, carers will feel well supported and have a statutory entitlement to regular breaks from caring, with the cared for person, and have ready access to local practical support.’
 Care 21: The future of unpaid care in Scotland, Scottish Executive, 2006
The Carers Bill will not achieve these aspirations but we expect it will lead to significant improvements, particularly in relation to better access to practical support and information.
In relation to short breaks the Bill includes:
- as part of a general duty to support eligible carers (referred to above), the Bill requires local authorities to give consideration to whether this support should take the form of a break from caring;
- a requirement on local authorities to prepare and publish a short breaks services statement which sets out the short breaks services available, which are relevant to the persons who live in that area;
- a regulation making power for Scottish Ministers to make further provisions about the preparation, publication and review of short breaks services statements;
- a power on Scottish Ministers to make regulations about the forms of support that would constitute a break from caring. These regulations may make specific provision to deal with cases where the support is delivered through the provision of replacement care, or other services to the cared-for person.
Duty to Support Carers
During the initial consultation phase Shared Care Scotland argued that the Bill should contain a specific Duty on local authorities to provide and promote a range of short breaks to benefit carers and the people they care for. Such a Duty would require local authorities to plan and commission provision to ensure there is sufficient supply and choice of short break opportunities to meet the needs of eligible families. We proposed that those not reaching the eligibility threshold would be helped to access a range of mainstream services such as accessible recreational and holiday provision, as well as other community-based leisure activities.
The Scottish Government has decided not to include a Short Breaks Duty in the Bill. Instead the Bill contains a general Duty (Part 3, Section 22), to support eligible carers. However, in meeting this Duty local authorities must give ‘consideration’ to whether support should be in the form of a break from caring.
“A local authority, in determining which support to provide to a carer under section 22 (4), must consider in particular whether the support should take the form of or include a break from caring.”
We are concerned at the possible interpretation of this particular Duty. Will eligible carers be entitled to receive support in the form of break(s) from their caring if this is their expressed need? In what circumstances might a local authority decide not to provide this support after consideration?
We would prefer that carers meeting eligibility criteria should have a quantified and guaranteed minimum entitlement to short breaks support, which would be recorded in their Support Plan or Young Carers Statement, and which would be made available through the different self-directed support options.
The general Duty to Support, as it stands, does not tackle directly the need for local authorities to actively plan to improve the availability, choice and flexibility of short break provision. However we accept that short breaks are part of a continuum of services and support which, when properly configured, all contribute to improving the lives of carers, their wider families and the people they care for. Furthermore we would expect to see improvements in choice and flexibility to be achieved through other public service reforms including Self-directed Support, and Health and Social Care Integration.
Part 3, Section 19 of the Bill requires local authorities to set their own eligibility criteria and this must be done in consultation with carers and carers’ bodies. The Bill also states that local authorities must have regard, in setting their eligibility criteria, to any regulations that may be developed by Scottish Ministers. We would expect such regulations to emphasise the importance of eligibility policies which promote early intervention and prevention. Local authorities will be required to publish and review their criteria in accordance with specified time-frames. The Bill also contains provisions to enable Scottish Ministers to set out national eligibility criteria in regulations, should the local criteria not be working in the way intended.
The duty to support will be triggered when a carer’s identified needs meet the local eligibility criteria. The threshold for eligibility will be determined locally which means that carers in different areas may receive different levels of provision despite having similar levels of need, and despite facing similar circumstances. This will include access to breaks from caring too.
For this reason we would like to see a National Eligibility Framework developed from the beginning with clearly defined processes for determining individuals’ needs, and how these are then translated into outcomes and resource allocations. We believe this would achieve greater consistency and equity of carer support across Scotland than the proposed approach.
Short Breaks Statements
Part 6, Section 32 of the Bill requires each local authority to prepare and publish a short break services statement. This will contain information about the short break services available for carers and the people they care for, including local and national provision (which is relevant to the persons living in the local area). It must also be provided in an accessible format. The Bill also gives Scottish Ministers regulation-making powers to direct local authorities on the preparation, publication and review of short breaks services statements.
This is a welcome development and one that we hope will go some way towards overcoming the difficulties faced by carers trying to access information about short breaks in their local area. We would expect a statement to go further than just a list or directory of services and must include at least the following information:
- Details of the range of local short break services and support available
- Any criteria against which the eligibility for services will be assessed
- Details of universally available, accessible recreation and leisure services in the local area – including provision not subject to eligibility criteria
- Information about how short breaks will be supported through age and stage transitions
- An up-to-date list of key contacts for information and assistance on short breaks
- A named lead contact with responsibility for the Short Breaks Statement
- (Separate statements will be needed for Children’s services and Adult and Older People’ services.)
To ensure good access to this information, we would like to see the promotion of information on short breaks to be included in the list of information and advisory services specified in Section 31 of the Bill.
Voluntary Sector Short Breaks Fund
Subject to Spending Review decisions, the government also proposes to extend the duration of the voluntary sector Short Breaks Fund. This Fund was developed by the National Carer Organisations in partnership with the Scottish Government and is administered by Shared Care Scotland. The Family Fund administers a separate fund called Take a Break Scotland which provides grants directly to families caring for disabled children and young people.
The Short Breaks Fund (excluding Take a Break) is divided into 2 programmes: Better Breaks (grants up to £50,000 to third sector organisations supporting breaks for disabled children, young people and their families) , and Creative Breaks (grants up to £50,000 to third sector organisations supporting breaks for adults with caring needs, their carers, young carers and kinship carers.) Between 2011 and 2015 the Fund has distributed £10.3 million to 613 projects benefiting 40,000 carers.
The continuation of the Fund is to be welcomed. The evaluation of the different programmes has shown year-on-year the considerable benefits the Fund is delivering to carers and the people they care for – many of whom may not have access to statutory services. The Fund cannot and should not replace the short breaks that must be facilitated through statutory support, but it can help to enhance and extend the provision available. Through the learning exchange programme, for example, the Fund is contributing to the development of new models of service provision, and is equipping services with new tools and information to help them become more sustainable.
Shared Care Scotland
8th April 2015
 Carers (Scotland) Bill, Policy Memorandum