Implementing the Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act 2004

Assessment of carers

In this section:

The government is well aware that the social care system would collapse were it not for the work done by carers, who make a vital contribution to society by enabling the people they care for to remain in the community. Both the Green Paper Independence, well-being and choice (28) and the subsequent White Paper, Our health, our care (56), our say emphasise the need to ensure that carers are integral to the new vision for social care.

It is vital, therefore, that carers are properly supported and enabled to sustain their caring role. For it to be useful, the carer's assessment must be focused on the desired outcomes stated by the carer him/herself. The policy guidance (3) requires consideration of the carer's willingness and ability to care - of the carer's 'attitude and mental capabilities and not just their physical ability'. For example, some people may be reluctant to take on the responsibility yet feel:

a moral obligation to do so; others may feel defeated, trapped or depressed. The assessment of the person's willingness and ability to care must also now take into consideration, for example whether the carer works or wishes to work, or undertake education, training or any leisure activity.' (3) (point 43)

Under the 2004 Act, consideration of a carer's needs in these areas - education, training, employment and leisure - is now a requirement. In addition to ensuring that they have full access to mainstream resources, assessors must be aware of the resources that are available - locally and nationally - to support carers in pursuing these activities. 'Signposting' to appropriate resources and sources of help can only be successful if up-to-date information is available for both assessors and carers.

Carer participation - not only in assessment but also in the planning and design of services - is key to providing the type of support that carers want and need. Where there are gaps in services, developing local resources through carer participation should be a priority.