Implementing the Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act 2004
Duty to inform carers of the right to assessment - Providing information
- Information needs to be provided in a more systematic way.
- The impact of information strategies needs to be assessed.
- Through the multi-agency strategy, develop an information strategy.
- Ensure that a named person in each authority is responsible for carers' information.
- Ensure that information is free of jargon and in a variety of formats.
- Ensure that there is a system for keeping information up to date.
- Ensure that all relevant agencies are aware of procedures for signposting carers to support and services.
- Develop methods for checking that information is being received by the right people and is understandable.
- Develop a carers' information network.
- Work with local carers' organisations to keep contact details for carers (with their consent) so that information, newsletters, etc. can be posted to them.
- Make a note in the cared-for person's record whenever a carer's assessment is refused, giving the reason, so that there is evidence that one has been offered and an indication of why it has not been accepted.
- Carers who refuse assessment may still want to have an emergency plan in place.
- Ensure that an offer of assessment is made on a regular basis (e.g. at the cared-for person's annual review or following a change of circumstances).
There are lots of ways in which information can be provided so that it is more likely to reach people who may not otherwise know about their rights as carers. Through the multi-agency strategy, statutory and local voluntary agencies should work together to develop an information strategy. Heron (11) details the necessary components of an information strategy and advocates the following stages:
- deciding what information is needed when, and who is responsible for it
- designing and planning the information
- distributing the information
- monitoring the uptake and effectiveness
- keeping it up to date.
In addition to being distributed through specialist services, information should be made available via any number of local resources (e.g. supermarkets and shopping centres, libraries, GP surgeries, leisure centres, schools, community centres, places of worship, clinics and hospitals) and in different formats (e.g. recorded voice, easy read, different languages). Local and national media (e.g. radio, internet, press) should be used to publicise carers' rights. In recent years, a lot of effort has been put into developing information for carers. However, a strategic approach is necessary to ensure that it is received by the right people at the right time. (11) A recent study by the Audit Commission (12) found that, while a great deal of information is available for carers, it needs to be provided in a more systematic way. For instance, people who have just become carers need information on where to get help for themselves and for the person they are caring for. (11) In addition, many carers of people with learning disabilities have not been assessed because the cared-for person is already receiving services. As a result, the trigger for a carer's assessment - a community care assessment - is absent. (13) This emphasises the importance of well-coordinated, up-to-date information for all those in contact with carers so that carers can become aware of their right to request an assessment. Previous practice guidance (point 15) (2) sets out responsibilities for local authorities in relation to the provision of information for social care.
Practice examples are self-reported and have not been evaluated.
- Local partnerships in Surrey have set up a website to provide information for both carers and professionals (12). It hosts Care Radio, an internet radio station for carers, and is also linked to the national website run by Carers UK.
- Many local authorities have set up one-stop shops that are able to offer information on a range of services and benefits. Staff who have first contact with customers are able to ask them if they have caring responsibilities. However, one-stop shops may work less well in rural areas.
- All referrals in Devon, including all first-contact details, will soon be taken through Care Direct. When appropriate, callers will be asked if they have a carer or if they have caring responsibilities.
- In Sunderland, a multi-agency approach to planning events for Carers' Week and Carers' Rights Day has ensured good local publicity.