Implementing the Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act 2004
Cooperation between authorities - Provision for carers by other organisations
- Carers' employment needs are rarely considered at a strategic planning level (29).
- Other public bodies often make the assumption that it is the sole responsibility of social services to meet carers' needs (29).
- Carers are not covered by the Disability Discrimination Act but, in a landmark case, a carer recently won the initial stages of her case at the European Court of Justice when she claimed "discrimination by association". Sharon Coleman claimed that her employer treated her less favourably than it did parents of non-disabled children. The outcome of this case could give new rights to millions of carers.
- Through the multi-agency strategy, involve local partners - health, housing, leisure and education - in strategic planning.
- Ensure that the multi-agency strategy addresses the need for staff training and awareness across all the authorities concerned.
- Ensure that the carers' lead contacts other departments and authorities to find out what they can provide for carers (e.g. 'freedom passes', parking permits for those visiting the cared-for person during the day, carer ID cards for access to discounts, concessionary fees).
- Identify a senior contact point for carers' issues in each public authority.
- Encourage health partners to introduce carer-friendly policies - for example, hospital discharge procedures that take account of carers' employment needs, policies that avoid the cancellation of appointments involving carers, and flexible appointment times.
Employers - as well as partner authorities such as health and housing - often assume that it is social care services' role to support carers (29). However, it is important that carers' needs are recognised and provided for by all sections of society and that social services are not seen as being solely responsible.
The 2004 Act will enable social services departments to be better able to call on other authorities to assist in supporting carers (3) (p 13). Key to implementing this are the essential steps of having in place a multi-agency strategy and appointing a carers' lead. The role of the latter is vital to ensure the engagement of other statutory agencies and local resources in supporting carers.
Partnership working can be improved by the secondment of workers between authorities. There is evidence that the placement of a carers' support worker in a GP surgery improves carer access and joint working (12,49). Research into this model has shown that it produces improved awareness of carer issues among surgery staff, quicker interaction and intervention that was thought to have a preventative effect, a more seamless service and carers feeling personally supported by the worker (49).
Practice examples are self-reported and have not been evaluated.
- The London Borough of Tower Hamlets have introduced a discount scheme in the locality. The scheme not only helps to identify carers in the area but, by engaging a number of local services, also increases awareness of their presence.
- A health and social care compact (PDF) has been agreed between the City of Sunderland social services, local health trusts and the voluntary sector.
- Hertfordshire County Council has sent a standard letter to all relevant authorities informing them of their responsibilities under the 2004 Act. A protocol accompanied the letter, and it was suggested that a senior person in each of the organisations signs the protocol agreement (PDF).
- In Crawley, carers' support workers attached to the GP service have proved successful in a number of ways, including saving GPs' time (12).