Our CEO Don Williamson, Ron Culley from Quarriers and Angela Bonomy from Sense Scotland, speak to the urgency needed in providing breaks for carers this carers week 2023.
This year’s Carers Week is focused on ensuring unpaid carers are recognised and supported in our communities. One of the most important ways we can do this is by giving carers opportunities to have time-out from their caring responsibilities.
Often, we take for granted the simple freedoms of meeting up with friends, reading a book, going on holiday, pursuing hobbies, or even just having time to rest. These activities enhance and bring joy to our lives but for many carers and those they care for, these opportunities are beyond their reach.
Progress is being made in Scotland on the establishment of a new legal ‘right to a break’. This development carries, we hope, the promise of significant improvements in access to breaks and respite provision, aiming to address the large levels of unmet need within the community. It reflects a growing understanding of the critical role that breaks play in supporting carers and individuals in need of care. It is a positive step towards ensuring everyone has access to the essential breaks they need to ensure good health and wellbeing.
However, despite the undeniable importance of short breaks and the potential benefits of this new legal entitlement, the respite care sector in Scotland faces many challenges that risk its future availability and, consequently, the positive impact of any new rights.
With as few as 3% of carers estimated to be receiving statutory help with breaks from caring, it would be reasonable to expect a significant surge in demand for respite care when this new right comes into effect. This increase in demand will place extra pressure on already strained respite care providers, making it challenging to meet the needs of all those requiring and eligible to receive these services under this new right.
However, the ability of the sector to respond to current (let alone future) demand is being seriously affected by decreasing public sector budgets. Providers, most of whom will be running on a not-for-profit basis, are finding it increasingly difficult to sustain the availability of respite care services as operating expenses increase and income diminishes. As a result, waiting lists are growing and carers and individuals in need receive less support.
Compounding this is the growing trend towards individual spot purchasing of services, moving away from local commissioning. This shift, coupled with the often inadequate funding attached to individual support plans, creates further challenges for providers in maintaining viability. Low wages and the rising cost of living is also forcing many excellent, dedicated staff to seek employment elsewhere. In these conditions, the prospect of any improvement in short breaks provision appears very unlikely, while the risk of rapid failure looms large.
It is crucial therefore that policymakers and stakeholders recognise the urgent need for increased investment in respite care. Adequate, long-term funding would not only help to alleviate some of the financial strain on providers but also allow for the development and enhancement of services to meet growing need. Efforts must also be made to address the funding attached to individual support plans. A thorough evaluation of funding mechanisms is necessary to ensure they accurately reflect the costs and complexities associated with providing personalised respite care services to an increasingly diverse population. Advocacy for fair and sufficient funding, backed by an evidence-based understanding of the sector’s needs, is crucial to secure the resources needed for sustainable and effective short breaks and respite care provision in the future.
So, this Carers Week 2023, let’s take immediate action to start building a future where breaks are readily available to all carers and the people they care for. Let’s make it our shared mission to establish a sustainable and flourishing marketplace for short breaks provision, ensuring that everyone can enjoy the benefits of regular breaks that work best for them.
Angela Bonomy — Chief Executive of Sense Scotland;
Ron Culley — Chief Executive of Quarriers;
Don Williamson — Chief Executive of Shared Care Scotland.