Implementing the Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act 2004

Assessment of carers - Developing local resources

Key research and policy findings

Practice points

Research and policy

If services are to focus on outcomes, and flexibility is to be made available to carers to sustain their caring role, services need to be developed locally to meet identified needs. This will necessitate not only the identification of local needs and gaps in service, but also the development of community involvement in meeting those needs. Services cannot hope to meet the needs of carers unless all stages of planning and development have active participants with a carer perspective.

Carers exist in all communities, and their needs will be different depending on certain characteristics - for example, cultural diversity, sexuality, age. It is important that they are included in the development of local services to meet their own needs and that they are empowered to become fully participative citizens.

Independence, well-being and choice (28) emphasises the need to use the wider resources of the community when planning care. Early intervention and prevention are also key to the new vision for social care outlined in Our health, our care, our say. Participation on a local level, in developing services to target local need, may address many of the issues associated with social exclusion.

The government is clear that the involvement of members of the community with public bodies is vital to the implementation of its policies. Local authorities need to mobilise local communities into active participation. Firm foundations (48), a government report on capacity building, sets out a framework for development. The report defines community capacity building as:

activities, resources and support that strengthen the skills, abilities and confidence of people and community groups to take effective action and leading roles in the development of their communities.

Local authorities need to ensure that support is available to local communities to enable individuals and groups to develop the skills and confidence to facilitate active participation (47). Community involvement in decision-making and the setting of local priorities is essential to the implementation of policy at a local level. Communities across the country differ greatly in terms of geography and the diversity of the local population, and such differences are key to the development of appropriate local implementation plans.

Richardson and Sefton (47) offer the basis for a tool for the assessment of capacity-building schemes. They have identified four elements of a successful community group:

They have also ascertained the characteristics of a favourable external environment necessary for the success of community groups:

Resources need to be evaluated by carers in terms of their outcomes for carers.

Direct payments have, for many disabled people, offered increased independence and choice. If direct payments are to be successful, it is important that people have the support they need to cope with the administrative and human resource management aspects.

Information on direct payments is available from local authorities and from the Department of Health. The main source of direct payments guidance is: Community Care, Services for Carers and Children's Services (Direct Payments) Guidance England 2003 (PDF) .

Ideas from practice

Practice examples are self-reported and have not been evaluated.