News

Listen

Help for carers

26/07/2010

Plans to identify and support carers of all ages across Scotland have been revealed, including investment in respite and short breaks.

Backed by £5 million over five years for the voluntary sector to support respite for carers of all ages, the strategy was unveiled today by Public Health Minister Shona Robison as she met adult and young carers at the Lanarkshire Carers Centre in Hamilton.

The adult strategy - Caring Together - lays out a ten-point plan with specific commitments to help carers, including:

  • Creating a Carers Rights Charter
  • Investing in carers training, building on an existing £281,000 investment
  • Improving the identification of carers by health and social care services
  • Making carers' own health and wellbeing a priority
  • Promoting carer-friendly employment practices and encouraging income maximisation

In a Scottish and UK first, it includes a separate strategy on young carers - Getting it Right for Young Carers.

Ms Robison said:

"Carers of all ages make a huge contribution to their families and to society. Their efforts help their loved ones to continue living independently - and their contribution as unpaid workers to health and social care is worth an estimated £7.68 billion a year.

"Caring Together makes clear that we rely on carers. Our commitments in areas such as training, carer participation, health, rights and employment signify a new deal for them. They are equal partners in the care of their loved ones, and their needs must be acknowledged and met by our NHS and social work systems. This strategy has been compiled with help from carers themselves and it's clear that this is hugely important for them.

"What is also clear is that a short break and some respite from caring duties can make all the difference. The £5 million respite funding over five years will help the voluntary sector to sustain and support carers, help carers continue the life-sustaining work they do and develop innovative short breaks and respite.

"We will explore how this money might best be used - for example, short breaks for families with children who have disabilities would be a priority. We hope to see innovative proposals from the voluntary sector that will break new ground.

"Getting it Right for Young Carers is clear that there are many positive aspects to being a young carer, but they should not suffer the burden of inappropriate caring. Young carers deserve to be children and young people first and foremost, and this strategy lays out how we expect services to help them achieve that."

Pat Begley, Director of Carers Scotland, said:

"Unpaid carers sustain the health and social care system in Scotland. This new strategy should be viewed as a statement of intent, a down payment investing in the future of a caring society.

"The strategy has many good things to commend it. It now requires a clear action plan to implement it in a way that will make a material difference to the lives of unpaid carers.

"We recognise that there are difficult financial challenges ahead but we must not shift more of the burden of care onto unpaid carers. Carers are not volunteers - they are part of the largest unpaid workforce in Scotland and must be supported and resourced if health and social care services are to be maintained.

"We commend the Scottish Government for their continued commitment to unpaid carers, welcome the significant additional funding for short breaks and training and look forward to working with the Government to develop a clear timetable with specific objectives and outcomes."

Paul Weddell from Uphall in West Lothian cares for both his wife and his daughter, and was involved in drafting the strategy. He said:

"The two strategies together represent an important step along a long road for carers.

"Adult carers save the public purse a great deal of money and contribute a great deal to society. We are equal partners in the care of our loved ones and this strategy makes clear we should be treated as such.

"The money being invested by the Scottish Government is very encouraging. It's vital that carers get a break and can look after their own health, as we know that isn't always their top priority. We also know that some carers and families benefit from very valuable support - what we need to see now is that same high standard extended to all carers."