Assessing the mental health needs of older people

Policy on carers



There are approximately six million family carers in the UK. Most support an older spouse or parent. A quarter are older people themselves, primarily spouses. Since the NHS and Community Care Act 1990, the contribution that carers make to supporting elderly and disabled people in the community has been increasingly recognised and responded to. Even in policies that do not directly address the needs of carers, their role is identified as important. For example, the National Service Framework for Older People states that: 'carers needs should be considered as an integral part of the way in which services are provided for older people'. (61)

There is particular recognition of the needs of the significant number of carers of people with dementia; it has been estimated that 75 per cent of all those people with moderate to severe dementia living in the community have a family carer. Caring for a person with dementia is widely evidenced as highly physically and emotionally stressful, and for some it results in the development of mental ill health, particularly depression.

In addition to enhancement of the local authority's duty to assess the needs of carers (see Section 5), recent legislation enshrines the rights of carers to access services. The Carers and Disabled Children Act 2000 has given the local authority discretion to meet carers' needs with any service that will genuinely help them continue to care and maintain their health and well-being. This gives much greater scope to be flexible and innovative in the way that support is provided to carers. The Act also empowers local authorities to make direct payments to carers to meet their own needs and to provide voucher schemes for short-term breaks to allow carers the flexibility to manage their own package of support.

The Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act

The Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act 2004 builds on existing rights.

In summary these are:

The Act aims to extend carers rights by:

Further information

Carers UK provides clear and accessible information on legislation relating to carers and their rights, and services for carers.

The Department of Health booklet Who cares? Information and support for carers of people with dementia is also available online.

For information and advice for carers of people with dementia, see the Alzheimer's Society website.

The government has published explanatory notes on the Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act 2004.

Carers UK also provides an NHS andnewAct.pdf" title="Link to PDF file - opens in new browser window" target="_blank">outline of the implications of the Act for the NHS .

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