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Draft Guidance on Supporting Carers

The UNISON Scotland Submission

To the Health Department, Scottish Executive Consultation Paper on Community Care and Health (Scotland) Act 2002: Draft Guidance on Section 8-12: Carers

February 2003

Executive Summary

    • UNISON is Scotland's largest trade union representing 150,000 members working in the public sector. UNISON members include workers in both the health service and local authorities.
    • UNISON Scotland welcomes the consultation paper as an important step in raising awareness of the change in legislation affecting carers in Scotland.
    • UNISON Scotland would hope that sufficient resources would be put in place to ensure that the legislative changes are properly implemented. This would include both staff training and the implementation of suitable procedures.
    • There should be a clearer definition of what is meant by the term - ‘substantial and regular'. This should be clarified both in relation to adult and young carers.


This document aims to provide draft guidance on the implementation of the Community Care and Health (Scotland) Act 2002. This paper relates to unpaid or informal carers, such as parents and children etc who may be caring for a family member. It highlights that supporting carers and involving them in the partnership of care is an integral part of the Scottish Executive's social and health agenda.

The aim of the legislation is to ensure that carers are not excluded from a wide range of activities and opportunities because of their time and personal commitment to their caring role. The legislation also envisages local authorities and other statutory agencies ensuring that support for carers is designed to empower carers to make the most of their potential.

The legislative changes now mean that carers, under certain conditions, can have an assessment of their ability to care when they request it, irrespective of whether an assessment is provided for the cared for person. The right to an assessment is enshrined in the changes and applies equally to adult carers and carers aged under 18.

The guidance paper also highlights the need for local authorities and other agencies (principally NHS Health Boards) to inform carers of these changes including allowing Scottish Executive Ministers to require NHS Health Boards to draw up carer information strategies.

The main issues of concern in the paper are:

    • Assessment of carers,
    • Young Carers,
    • NHS Care Information Strategies.


Assessment of Carers

From 1 September 2002 local authorities were required to inform any carer they are aware of who appears to be ‘providing a substantial amount of care on a regular basis' that they may be entitled to an assessment. Once an authority has decided that a carer does qualify as ‘substantial and regular', the carer is entitled to an assessment, not just the ‘main' or ‘primary' carer.

There is some concern over the lack of a clear definition on what is meant by ‘substantial and regular'. This could exclude some carers from receiving assessments which could help improve not only their quality of life but also that of the cared for person. There needs to be clarification on this definition.

Assessment however is a means, not an end in itself. Assessment acts as the gateway to the provision of services or other support. They are also meant to ensure that the carer can provide a sustainable level of care.

However, all local authority staff have a responsibility to inform a carer of these new rights to assessment and this may involve a variety of methods such as verbal or printed information. This may help identify carers who are caring for people who are not known to local authorities or cared for people who are refusing their own care assessment. Although the majority of staff that come into contact with carers will be social work staff, it may also include staff in other departments such as housing.

This leads to a concern that carers may be overloaded with information about their assessment rights from all local authority members of staff that they come into contact with. For this reason clear procedures should be in place to ensure that each carer receives the information they require and that other staff members are aware that this information has been passed on. The use of Single Shared Assessments allays this concern to some extent. This will allow the most relevant professional to co-ordinate an assessment and disseminate the findings to the carer as well as related professionals. In disseminating such information the staff member responsible for co-ordinating the assessment must be aware of data protection legislation regarding the transmission of private information.

This assessment procedure raises further training and procedural requirements to ensure that these legislative changes can be fully implemented. Of particular concern are is the need to ensure that staff are sufficiently trained not only in legislation affecting carers but also on data protection. Staff will also need to be aware of carers' cultural and personal backgrounds and their relationships with the person they are caring for. This may be a problem when dealing with a cared for person who refuses the services that may be offered to them and some level of mediation must be attempted. If this were to be attempted by staff then they would have to be sufficiently trained or at least made aware of suitable family mediation services that could intervene.

For carers of children with disabilities, staff would also need to be aware that if the carers are the parents of these children then they have specific legal obligations that need to be taken into account during the carer assessment.

Young Carers

The legislative changes will provide young carers (those under 18 years of age) with the same right of assessment as adult carers. However there will be a different interpretation of the ‘substantial and regular' definition in respect to their caring responsibilities. The impact on young carers' current and future development is to be taken into account during any assessment. The primary objective of young carer assessments is to safeguard their interests and promote their welfare.

All of these issues will have to be taken into account in the training of local authority staff who come into contact with young carers, whether in providing them with information on the new legislative changes or in caring out their assessments. Further resources such as access to family mediation services etc will also have to be available in order to ensure this legislation is fully implemented.


NHS Carer Information Strategies

The legislation provides Scottish Ministers with a new power to require NHS Boards to prepare and submit to them a ‘carer information strategy', setting out how the Board will inform carers who appear to them to be ‘substantial and regular' of their potential right to an assessment. Scottish Ministers may specify the date for submitting the strategy, the form and extent of the strategy, and the consultation that the Board must undertake in preparing it. NHS Boards must also provide a copy of their carer information strategy to any person who requests it.

The introduction of these strategies will place similar requirements on staff working in the NHS as those in local authorities. It is also important to note that carers are more likely to present themselves in a health care setting before they make contact with local authority departments. As with local authority staff, there will have to be sufficient training and procedures put in place. It will also be important that NHS Boards develop strategies in close co-operation with local authorities and other agencies, in order to minimise duplication of resources.


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For Further Information Please Contact:

Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX

Tel 0141-332 0006 Fax 0141 342 2835

e-mail matt.smith@unison.co.uk

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