The Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 which comes into force on 1 April 2018 will place a new duty on local authorities to prepare and publish a short break services statements. Section 35 of the Act states that:
- A short breaks services statement means a statement of information about the short breaks services available in Scotland for carers and cared-for persons.
- The information must be accessible to, and proportionate to the needs of, the persons to whom it is provided.
- The Scottish Ministers may by regulations make further provision about the preparation, publication and review of short breaks services statements.
Why do we need Short Break Services Statements?
- We believe the Short Breaks Services Statement required under Section 35 should contribute to greater transparency and fairness in the allocation of short breaks.
- The statement will help carers and those they help care for, as well as social workers and carer support staff, to be better informed about the assistance available to help carers and their families to achieve a break from caring.
Our Rest Assured research showed that a lack of information, or difficulty finding information, was a significant barrier to accessing a break from caring with 43% of respondents indicating this was the main obstacle faced. Recent research from Carers UK (2017) also highlighted how a lack of transparency around funding for breaks, and not knowing how to access a break, were significant barriers to carers receiving the support they needed.
Why the need for regulations?
Regulations allow government to expand on the legislation and explain in more detail what is expected of those to whom the law applies. Sometimes government decides that the desired change can be produced by encouraging organisations to adopt good practice which they set out in guidance, but guidance is more discretionary and does not have the same legal weight as regulations.
What do the draft regulations stipulate about the content of short break statements?
The draft regulations stipulate that local authorities must provide the following information in their statement:
- They must contain a statement of purpose, and;
- They must contain contact details of the department or organisation responsible for the statement.
[We assume therefore that once these minimum requirements are met the local authority has discretion to decide the detailed content and format of their statement.]
- In addition, the regulations require the local authority preparing the statement to, ‘have regard to the views of relevant carers and such bodies representative of carers as the local authority considers appropriate.’
- Finally the regulations specify that each local authority must publish its Short Break Services Statement by 31 December 2018.
Shared Care Scotland’s response to the draft regulations
- In our view the draft regulations do not go nearly far enough. The lack of more detailed, comprehensive minimum information requirements will lead to considerable variation in the content and quality of statements across Scotland.
- We believe the local statement must provide more than just information about the short break services available in Scotland (many of which may be unavailable to carers in the local authority area).
- To be of practical use to carers, the main focus of the statement must be on providing information about what short break services and support is available locally, how this is accessed by carers, and what eligibility criteria apply. We would like to see this minimum information requirement set out in the regulations. [Our detailed minimum information specification is set out below.]
- The provision of local, comprehensive information about short breaks is key to empowering carers to have real choice and control. However, if the information provided is vague, lacks detail and speaks in generalities then this will only add to carer’s frustration and stress.
- As well as explaining the purpose of the statement, we believe the local authority should also set out its vision for the ongoing development of short breaks in the local area. The statement should outline any plans for improving provision and how these plans will be reviewed and reported on, and also how they will be co-produced with carers.
- The draft regulations require local authorities to ‘have regard to the views of relevant carers … as the local authority considers appropriate’. This is open to interpretation and is not, in our opinion, consistent with the level of engagement set out in Section 27 of the Act which covers carer involvement in service planning and design. Section 27 (6) is particularly clear in specifying the level of involvement expected and to what ends. It should be made clear in the regulations that Section 27 also covers the preparation of statements.
- Section 35 (2) of the Act states that the information must be accessible to, and proportionate to the needs of, the persons to whom it is provided. There is no explanation of ‘proportionate’ in the regulations and this is open to wide interpretation.
In summary, we are concerned these draft regulations set the bar extremely low on the desired level of information expected. We believe this will lead to wide variation in quality and content with no recourse to enforceable and effective standards to help exert pressure for improvement.
Have your say
You can have your say on the draft regulations for the Carers Act, including those on Short Breaks Services Statements, as part of the Scottish Government consultation which is open until 24 September 2017. Please make your views here. Alternatively you can share your views as part of the National Carer Organisations collective response by taking part in their survey. You will find all our information including the NCO briefings on the regulations, the Carers Charter, and the NCO survey here.
What do we think should be included in the Short Break Services Statement?
Short Break Services Statement: Minimum Information Specification
As a minimum, Shared Care Scotland believes the regulations should require local authorities to include the following information in their Short Break Services Statement:
- An introductory statement, setting out the local authority’s purpose and vision for short breaks
- Information on the range of local short break services available, including:
- information on mainstream short break provision that is accessible to people with additional support needs without recourse to a formal assessment, including accessible holiday activities for disabled children and young people
- information on more specialist providers that can provide breaks to people with more complex support needs (where mainstream services may not be suitable), including day and overnight provision, befriending type services and provision over the holiday period
- details of local programmes that provide breaks directly to carers
- Any criteria against which access to these services will be assessed
- Any charging policies that apply – and the circumstances when charges will be waived
- Information on self-directed support and how this applies to short breaks
- Information on alternative sources of funding support
- The process used to ensure carers have access to a range of options to meet different needs, preferences and circumstances
- Details on how the statements will be published, reviewed and kept updated
- The department or organisation responsible for the statement, with contact details for further informatio
- Information on how carers will be involved in the review and on-going development of statements
- A list of local services that can provide advice, support or advocacy for carers in each area to help them source and arrange a break
- A list of any other relevant sources of information on short breaks