The following is a personal viewpoint, it is meant to start debate, I have written it as I see numerous issues developing within the region and across the country both with regards the inconsistency of Service, commissioning and interpretation of the Care Act.
Carers , no matter their age are not a new social issues that will fit into a cosy little box of service delivery, each one is unique, each situation different, each circumstance very special and it's time we acknowledged that and gave the 6.5 million plus carers the respect they deserve at every level all the time.
The twitter pages are over flowing as we all go mad across the nation tweeting about the vast army of unpaid family carers in the country who are maintain the nation's Health & Social Care System, who save the nation £130 Billion a year, who are unrecognised, unsupported and in many cases either invisible or ignored. We love weeks like this and days such as national Young Carers Day and Carers Rights Day and the efforts made by so many is amazing, but should we not be doing this everyday, every week. There are millions of carers of all ages out there who are not getting any support, not aware they are entitled to support and are really struggling physically, emotionally and financially-how do we reach them? How can we get them the recognition they deserve?
We have seen the introduction of the Care Act, which many of us, along with national groups & politicians have fought long and hard for and perhaps this massive piece of legislation has lulled us into a false sense of positivity on the future.....but is the future looking that positive?
With the increase in identification of adult carers we have seen an increase, nationally, in the waiting times for Carers Assessments as there was never going to be an increase in resources at a time the whole of Local Government/NHS is being driven by the governments austerity policies. The same is true in the support packages available for both the cared for & the carer, with local Carers Support Services being dependent more and more on their own fund raising and charitable grants and Adult Social Care going through re-invention nationally with ever decreasing budgets.
For carers aged 17 and under the situation is similar with reduced resources, both for the carers and cared for, increasing not reducing the pressure on some of society's most vulnerable young people. Some local authorities have dealt with the extra pressure by referring all young carers to Universal Services, so not even recognition of them as carers just young people who can access a youth club. Other are viewing young carers as possible Child Protection cases which would indicate that you cannot safeguard your child if you are ill disabled or have dependency issues. But is a disabled parent a bad parent or an ill parent who needs support?
But to me after many, many years working in, & managing, Services the biggest danger of all is not reduced resources, is not the output/outcomes climate we work in (as long as it applies to Local Authorities as well and not just commissioned Services) and it is not even the total non-understanding of the roles carers of all ages play in society, in caring for family members that exists within the Social Work/Health Professional field. It is the danger of "social working" Carers Support Services especially within the new Social Work ethos of brief intervention.....assess, carry out piece of work, close case.
Carers are carers not for a week or two, even a month or two but for years and need to be able to access the support and recognition of their role for years. We have worked with some young people for years, one young woman I work directly with has been with us since she was 12 she is now 22, we have seen her through school, college & university. We have supported her with her own health issues, physical and emotional and have been there as and when she needed. But the other circumstances in her life remain the same-she still lives with her dad who is very physically disabled, she is still his sole carer, and she still would not change it for the world. How does new world of "throughput" support carers like her or the older carers living with partners who become ill? Short piece of work and move on or support packages in place that mean something and that support the carer when they need to access it.
When I came into Social Work it was about short pieces of work occasionally but mostly long term work with families, making relationships, supporting people moving forwards and managing their lives, being there if needed. How times have changed, we recently heard of the Social Worker who wanted to close a case as the family where using her as a crutch and that was not her job, the family were in crisis...who else could they turn to, are Social Workers not by definition Societies crutches for the poor, weak and vulnerable?
Within the modern Social Work ethos, within the new Carers Act climate, we must not forget carers need recognition, they will not disappear because we try to control length of engagement, they need to access support from professionals, and peers, as and when they need it without further lengthy assessment processes, they need the resilience that long term support helps them build up and more importantly than anything, no matter their age, they need fun and breaks from their roles.
They need our respect on every level, and they need our thanks for the roles they fill with the minimum of complaining and very little recognition.
But most of all they need us to acknowledge that there are no short term solutions for the vast majority of them only the need for long term support, and the removal of the strangle hold of the new Social Work ethos of Brief Intervention.
Salford Carers Centre