An Holistic Approach To Carers

The question of how to tackle benefits for carers needs to take an holisitic approach rather than looking at finances alone.

Carers often feel of little value for a myriad of reasons, not just financial constraints. So in order to answer this fully I have made reference to the Carers Strategy and will use the strategy’s headings to highlight my key points.

Workforce Training

There is a fundamental need to educate ground floor staff in carer training.  Many carers are still not being regarded as ‘key partners in care’ in the way that they should and helping in developing the care for the cared for.  Staff need to understand the importance of the carer and their knowledge.  This is ranging across healthcare, including doctors as well as social care.  This cannot be changed by legislation alone but by educating the staff how to acknowledge carers and their contribution to care.  Simply an acknowledgement can be enough to increase a carer’s self esteem and confidence.

Carer’s Assessment/ Carers Allowance amount

If considering an increase in the amount of carers allowance per week consideration must be made to the changes in delivery of health and social care over the years, especially since 1996 when carers were given legal recognition of their own needs for the first time.  With the new Integrated Joint Board more health care is being delivered at home, increasing the ‘burden’ of care to the carer.  Any increase must take this into consideration and reflect an appropriate acknowledgement of a carers true value.  This does not have to be a large increase but awarded as part of an holistic approach to supporting carers.

Carer Health & Well Being/ Carer Training/ Employment & Skills

Despite the carers strategy encouraging training and education, this does not seem to join up with carers allowance.  Should carers not be encouraged to meet their own needs and aspirations?  It is inspiring that Moray Council has piloted a project to enable carers to achieve a SVQ 2 Health & Social Care through their caring role.  However they can be constrained as to employment afterwards, due to losing all the carers allowance for being a small amount over the threshold, resulting in them being financially worse off.  This is a bittersweet success for those carers achieving the education but being unable to realise their full potential.  A demoralising situation which could be avoided with an holistic approach to supporting carers.  An hours worked threshold could be beneficial not only to enable carers to meet their own aspirations but also to safeguard carers from working too many hours as well as their caring role, potentially causing burnout.  I myself would have reduced my working hours sooner had I been able to claim carers allowance.

Carers Rights & Employment

As the number of unpaid carers increase there is more need for the employer to support their staff.  Although legislation gives carers rights, these cannot always be supported financially by smaller organisations. This in turn makes it difficult for carers to remain in employment.   Carers have many skills to offer and many have given up well paid jobs to enable them to care.  If carers were recognised by HMRC in the same way as working parents it would enable them to work for 16 hrs rather than be treated as a single person who has to work 30 hrs before entitlement, particularly if the cared for is of working age and unable to work.  This would also increase health & well being whilst the carer can strike a healthy work/carer/life balance.

Poverty/Financial Inclusion

This reference to the carers allowance once the cared for has died.  Although carers allowance is extended for a further 8 wks post mortem this is not long enough for those who lived with or were married to the cared for.  It is a difficult and confusing time when benefit payments are being cancelled and new ones are being processed.  Not only are carers losing their payment but also the additional payments of the cared for benefits which can have a devastating impact.  A 12 week perion of grace would be more helpful.  In addition to this extended payment an appropriate bereavement co-ordinator for the benefits would be beneficial.  Although there is a bereavement hotline which deals initially with this, it stops after the initial contact and set up.  Personal experience showed me how confusing the time is despite me having a professional background.  Lack of communication and empathy were significant and left me with the worry that I was ‘getting money in from everywhere but no letters to explain why?’  This could have been avoided with one co-ordinator dealing with the ending of the cared for benefits and the set up of any new entitlements which should be seen through to conclusion.

In conclusion changes to carers allowance need to reflect the needs of Scotland’s carers and to recognise their value in an holisitic way.  Carers allowance only meets one area of supporting carers but could be amended in a way to enable carers to increase their skills and employability and have a positive impact on their communities.  Amendments to the threshold and an increase would enable carers to meet their own aspirations for a future beyond their caring role.

Why the contribution is important

I have previous employment experience of supporting unpaid carers, social inclusion projects for older people and independent advocacy.  I also have first hand experience as a carer for my terminally ill husband and the barriers that are faced when 'you don't wear a badge'.

The benefits system had failed to work efficiently for me after my husbnad died which caused more stress and anxiety at an already difficult time.  

by KirstyAnn on October 13, 2015 at 05:14PM

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