Beth Britton looks at the implications for social workers as a report on the Care Act shows that this new law is failing to deliver for England’s unpaid carers.
A year on from the introduction of the Care Act, which brought with it huge implications for social work, a review
has found that the Act has made little difference to the UK's 5.4 million unpaid carers.
The review, on behalf of Carers Trust
, and which I was involved with as a panellist, surveyed and spoke to unpaid carers and health and social care professionals to find out how well they thought the new Act, which entitles carers to an assessment of their needs, was working.
Our findings paint a ‘mixed picture’ with some examples of good practice, but in many cases we found that the Act had made no difference to carers. In some instances, carers hadn’t heard about the measures that had been introduced, which are intended to take into consideration the carer’s health and wellbeing, family relationships, and their need to balance home life with education or work.
As part of the review, a survey was conducted that showed only 21% of unpaid carers who responded felt that things had changed positively for them as a result of the Care Act 2014. 65% of carers who responded said they had not had an assessment, while only 5% of respondents were non-white, suggesting that the Act was failing to reach Black and Minority Ethnic groups.
As part of the evidence we heard, the importance of education and training for successfully implementing the Act was stressed. In our recommendations we have acknowledged this, and called upon professional bodies to ensure that all practitioners understand the new legal status of carers, are able to apply the wellbeing principle, and are compliant with the requirements of the legislation.
We also felt that it is essential for Directors of Adult Social Services and Directors of Children’s Services to ensure that all social workers and assessors are able to reflect the wellbeing principle in assessment and care and support planning; something that isn’t universally happening at present. By 2018 we want to see social workers and other care practitioners showing tailored support plans that are routinely co-designed and kept under review with carers.
In his comments, former Care Minister Prof Paul Burstow, who chaired the review, said:
“We know it’s early days, but more work must be done to impress upon those responsible for the day-to-day implementation of the Act that business as usual is not good enough. The Care Act raises the bar for carers but to realise its potential, government, councils, social workers and carers’ organisations all have more to do.”