Support for carers
The Care Act places carers on the same legal footing as the people they care for. Carers are defined as people who care for or intend to care for another adult.
However a person who provides care as a volunteer or under the terms of a contract will not count as a carer for the purposes of the Act.
Because carers are now on the same legal footing, this means the right to a personal budget, and the right to receive that personal budget through direct payments will apply equally.
In line with other assessments under the Care Act, a carer is entitled to an assessment of their support needs where the carer appears to have such needs. This means that local authorities are legally obliged to conduct an assessment even if they suspect that the carer in question will not have eligible needs. The mere appearance of needs is sufficient to trigger the assessment.
This is a less strict rule than the previous one. This should mean that many more carers will now be entitled to carers assessments.
What should the assessment cover?
Assessments in general should identify a person's care and support needs and the outcomes that a person wants to achieve, and should consider how care and support might help them to meet these needs and achieve these outcomes. This applies equally to carers assessments.
The carers assessment should specifically make note of the impact of their role on their own wellbeing. In order to do this, certain things should be considered, such as:
- The carer's ability or desire to work
- The things that they want to achieve in their day-to-day life
- Whether they want to have a more active social life
- Whether they want to study
- Whether they are willing and able to continue their role
This latter point is especially important. If you feel that you can no longer cope with caring for somebody and also living your own life, then it is important to say that you are no longer willing or able to continue. It can be hard to admit this, and many people will resist saying it in these terms. But saying that you are no longer willing or able does not mean that you do not want to care for your loved one; it simply means that you do not feel that you can continue to do so without it impacting on your wellbeing.
A carers assessment can be a joined up assessment with the person they care for, so long as both parties agree to this. The assessment can also take the form of a whole family assessment, or a supported self assessment (see fact-sheet on assessments). Whatever form the assessment takes, it must be appropriate, proportionate and must record a person's needs accurately.
The care plan
Following the assessment, a care and support plan should be drawn up. This should be a collaborative effort, taking into account the carer's views as much as is possible. In keeping with the general principle of putting carers on an equal legal footing, the rules around care plans in general will apply equally to carers.
In some cases, a carer's needs will be best met by the provision of care and support to the person they care for. This could be support to the person to give the carer a break and some time to see to their own wellbeing. This could be regular support or occasional short breaks.
The eligibility criteria for carers is not dissimilar to the criteria for adult care generally. There is a three stage decision process:
In order for a carer's needs to be eligible, they must be a result of their caring responsibilities. The Regulations say that the care provided must be "necessary" - this means that if the person being cared for is capable of meeting their own needs, then they cannot be taken into account in a carer's eligibility assessment. The local authority has discretion to decide what "necessary" means, though it will most likely have its plain English meaning. Statutory Guidance specifically says that a carer may have eligible needs even if the person they care for does not this should have no bearing in assessing a carer's eligibility.
Once it is established that the carer has needs arising from the necessary care of another person, the following rules apply. The carer's needs must:
- pose a risk to their physical or mental health; or
- cause them to be unable to achieve any one of a new set of specified outcomes:
- carrying out any caring responsibilities the carer has for a child;
- providing care to other persons for whom the carer provides care;
- maintaining a habitable home environment in the carer's home (whether or not this is also the home of the adult needing care);
- managing and maintaining nutrition;
- developing and maintaining family or other personal relationships;
- engaging in work, training, education or volunteering;
- making use of necessary facilities or services in the local community, including recreational facilities or services; and
- engaging in recreational activities
Finally, the needs are only eligible if the inability to achieve the outcome has a significant impact on their wellbeing.
Emma is a carer for her father, Peter. Peter is elderly and is deafblind. In the evenings, the low light conditions severely affect Peter's sight. When it is dark or gloomy, Peter needs help to travel outside of his home. Emma takes him to Braille classes, which he attends on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6.30pm, in the winter months when it is too dark for him to get the bus.
Emma wants to start studying at an evening college, but is unable to attend as she has to take Peter to his classes on the other side of town. She worries that she will never be able to get a good job as she does not have many qualifications.
Emma asks for a carer's assessment, where her need to improve her education and make herself more employable is identified. In order to achieve this outcome, Emma has a need to attend evening college. This need stems from caring for Peter by guiding him when it is dark, and so it fits the first part of the three point test.
The outcome that Emma wishes to achieve is to engage in training/education. This is one of the specified outcomes for carers.
This has a significant impact on her wellbeing, as it precludes her from engaging in work, training and education, and ultimately could affect her social and economic wellbeing and her ability to contribute to society.
The local authority finds that Emma's need to be able to go to evening college is eligible. Later, when the care and support plan is drawn up, it is decided that in the winter months when it is dark in the evenings, the local authority will arrange for somebody to take Peter to his Braille classes.
First published: Tuesday 31 March 2015
Updated: Monday 12 June 2017