Implementing the Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act 2004
Assessment of carers - Promoting access to education, training, employment and leisure
- The benefits of employment to carers are well documented and include better income, pension rights, career prospects and social networks.
- Evidence shows that carers generally have poor knowledge about pensions and that they tend to prioritise based on current financial pressures (ref Arksey et al 2005).
- Employment, education and training can be beneficial to carers' emotional and physical well-being, boosting self-esteem and reducing the risk of social exclusion.
- Good-quality, flexible support is needed for carers to be free to fulfil their employment, training, education and leisure needs.
- Awareness-raising is needed to ensure that carers' needs are supported in the wider society.
- Support to remain in employment is identified as a key outcome by many carers (29).
- Carers need support to prepare adequately for employment especially where confidence may be lost due to the length of the caring role.
- Opportunities to engage in leisure activities can be significantly reduced by the caring role.
- Engagement in leisure activities promotes physical and psychological well-being.
- For parent carers work is important in 'maintaining a personal equilibrium and in participating in normal life'
- Parent carers may need additional and focused support particularly at the time of transition to adult services
- The Childcare Act 2006 requires local authorities to assess the local childcare market and to secure sufficient childcare for working parents. Childcare will only be deemed sufficient if meets the needs of the community in general and in particular those families on lower incomes and those with disabled children.
- Ensure that practitioners and carers have access to up-to-date information on local resources for supporting carers in education, training, employment and leisure.
- Ensure that carers are offered appropriate support for the cared-for person so that they can have the peace of mind to pursue their own interests. This should include support services outside normal day centre hours and support after school and during school holidays for disabled children.
- Ensure carers are supported to plan for emergencies.
- Assess whether carers need funding for fees and transport when accessing education and training.
- Offer assessments at flexible times to accommodate those in employment.
- Offer welfare-rights assessments to carers wishing to take up employment, education or training opportunities.
Research shows that carers are more likely to lack confidence and self-esteem (43). This, in addition to their availability, is likely to disadvantage them in taking up education, employment or leisure activities.
Many carers have been out of the workplace for some time and may need to build skills and confidence before considering work. It is important that people are supported to prepare themselves for a return to the workplace (44), and this should include people whose caring responsibilities have come to an end. Preparation through training and work placements can avert problems in paid employment (43). Learning for living (see below) is a City and Guilds course specifically designed for this purpose.
Learning for living is an online learning resource that can lead to a qualification accredited by the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority. The Level 2 Certificate in Personal Development & Learning for Unpaid Carers is designed to identify and build on the knowledge, understanding and skills of people who are unpaid carers, either currently or in the recent past.
The award provides carers with an opportunity for self-development and confidence building, to prepare for other roles and choices and to transfer the skills acquired from the caring role.
Delivery is via approved City & Guilds centres (either distance learning or at a centre), and is potentially fundable by the Learning and Skills Council in England and by Education and Learning Wales.
Education can be for pleasure, to support carers in their caring role (e.g. learning stress management or correct lifting and handling) or as part of a plan to return to employment. It may or may not lead to the gaining of qualifications. Carers may also see time for study as a break from their caring responsibilities.
Flexible support services enable carers to remain in work (16,45) and facilitate their access to education (44). Services may include voucher schemes for short-term breaks, which offer increased flexibility, or the use of direct payments. Distance learning may be more appropriate to the needs of some carers. Many carers are on low incomes and may need support with costs for transport or college fees (44). Action for Carers in Employment have successfully campaigned for a reduction in education fees for carers and for courses targeted at them (44).
Carers, just like other people, may work shifts and weekends and may need support outside normal working hours (29). Certainly such support must be available to meet leisure needs. If carers are to achieve their desired outcomes with regard to employment, education, training and leisure activities, new and flexible outcomes-focused services will need to be developed in line with local need. In a survey for the Department of Work and Pensions Arksey (ref 2005) found that some services in particular would support carers to combine work and care. These include: longer day centre hours, childcare and after school clubs for disabled children and practical help with domestic chores.
Carers' participation in the planning and provision of local learning resources is essential to ensure that it fits with desired outcomes (44). Courses may need to be targeted at certain local groups and offered at times when carers are more likely to be able to participate. The involvement of carers will play a vital part in the development of flexible services, which, in turn, will enable carers to participate more fully in society.
Many carers say that they are restricted in what they do because of concern that something unforeseen might happen (46). For example, if a carer has transport problems or is taken ill, who will support the person they care for? There is evidence that such uncertainties influence the decision making of carers with regard to work and retirement (ref Arksey et al 2005). Carers' emergency schemes are important to give carers peace of mind to pursue their desired daily activities. Previous guidance (8) has highlighted the need for contingency planning and in the White Paper Our health, our care, our say (56) the government gives a commitment to ensure that short-term, home-based support is made available to carers in crisis or emergency situations.
A carer raised concerns about the stress caused by her uncertainty of what would happen in an emergency. She was unsure who to contact to provide care for her son who is profoundly autistic and has Pica syndrome.
The carer had recently been in an emergency situation: her partner had had a heart attack while her son was at home with her. Although she had managed to cope on this occasion, she felt it would be useful to establish a plan and identify how best to manage such a situation in the future.
A meeting was arranged and an emergency strategy was devised as part of a carer's assessment.
Result: A carer who feels listened to and supported and has peace of mind, at no cost to social services.
Practice examples are self-reported and have not been evaluated.
- Islington Carers' Forum offers a series of sessions under the title 'Getting family carers back to work' to encourage people to think about the world of work.
- The North West consortium of Crossroads schemes
has been working to develop a regional training
centre with the support of Skills for Care North
West Region. The centre is currently based on a
mix of e-learning and face-to-face training. Carer
support staff are currently the focus of the training,
and training for carers is being developed by:
- making training available for carers to help them in their current role as carers (e.g. moving and handling training, specific condition training, personal development training)
- planning to train carer volunteers, who will provide training courses to health and social care staff
- working locally to support carers back into education and work.
- Milton Keynes Crossroads has set up an after-school club in partnership with a local school for children with profound disabilities. This allows parents to extend their day-time activities, including work. European funding via the Action for Carers and Employment initiative is facilitating the expansion of the project to five days a week.
- Isle of Wight Crossroads, with European Union funding via the Action for Carers and Employment initiative, is planning to provide short-notice working-day cover for carers who would otherwise need a day off work.
- In Bolton, the Learning Ambassador initiative was developed by Carers Support in partnership with Bolton Community College. The scheme offers support to carers through monthly lunch meetings where carers have fun through sharing their skills and experiences and participating in training. The Learning Ambassadors have information stands at community events and run activity-based workshops for carers. Many are members of local committees on other issues.
- The Lions 'message in a bottle' scheme is a simple idea designed to encourage people to keep their personal and medical details on a standard form and in a common location - the fridge. This can give peace of mind to carers, knowing that if they are away from the home in the event of an emergency, the attending services will have all the information they need.Bottles are free of charge and can be obtained from a number of places including: chemist, doctor's surgery, Age Concern, council offices, housing associations, police stations or through a neighbourhood watch group.For further information contact Lions International. Telephone: 0845 833 9502. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.lions.org.uk
- In Sefton a lifelong learning and training officer
is funded jointly from the carers grant and training
to support carers to access training and education.
Carers are also offered places on all mandatory
training provided by the Health and Social Care
training unit. Training includes: understanding
Parkinson's disease; manual handling; disability
awareness; introductory dementia awareness; alcohol
and older people, food hygiene, creative alternatives
(therapeutic alternatives to help people with depression)
and person-centred planning. Other courses provided
through the PCT Expert Patient/Carer Programme
include the management of long-term conditions
and medication. The self-management courses have
been run in Southport and Formby and South Sefton
and are designed to help patients to:
- improve their ability to cope with pain
- manage medication
- reduce levels of depression, fatigue and anxiety
- improve communication with health professionals
- aid independence and mobility
- improve job/voluntary work prospects
- improve and maintain quality of life
- The courses consist of six weekly, two and a
half hour sessions with support and advice around:
- relaxation techniques
- diet and nutrition
- exercise and fitness
- symptom management techniques
- communication skills
- problem solving
- goal setting
- action planning
- Newcastle carer's centre have a 'pamper room' where carers can receive alternative health therapies such as Indian head massage and reflexology. This free service is much appreciated by carers.
- Caring with Confidence is a knowledge and skills based learning experience for carers in England. Training courses cover a range of subjects to support people in their caring role - such as relaxation techniques, awareness of additional resources and entitlements and moving into new education and training opportunities - encouraging carers to build on their own knowledge and skills based on a personal programme of development. The training can be administered face-to-face, online and by distance learning. Caring with Confidence informs carers of their rights, the services available to them and networks which might support them.
The Carers UK resource pack
Carers UK has produced a resource pack for local authorities and wider use. It contains the following resources:
- an introductory flyer on the Carers (Equal Opportunities) Act 2004, published by Action for Carers and Employment (ACE)/Carers UK, which explains how the resource pack can support its implementation
- Carers and their rights by Luke Clements
- Training resources on the Supporting working carers CD-ROM: employers' guide, carers' guide and guide for union representatives
- Juggling work and care: a DVD with case studies from employers and carers
- the information booklets Carers at work and Juggling work and care
- flyers on access to learning from City & Guilds, Open University, National Extension College, Elizabeth Nuffield Foundation (for Philippa Russell's new guide on access to learning for carers)
- Carers UK information and publications list.
With the exception of the DVD (which is available on order free of charge), the pack can be downloaded. To support implementation, printed copies will also be distributed through the Carers UK associate membership and ACE networks.