More recently, the Scottish Parliament has acquired new powers of welfare and social security, which will come into force very soon.
The Carers (Scotland) Act
The primary law that affects carers in Scotland is called the Carers (Scotland) Act. It will be implemented from April 2018 and will replace parts of existing legislation that supports unpaid carers. The Act will make it simpler for carers to be identified as needing support with their caring role, and will make getting this support easier too.
Carers’ assessments will be known as Adult Carer Support Plans (for adults) and Young Carer Statements (for young carers under 18). Both of these will focus more on how the caring role is affecting the person, rather than the number of hours spent caring.
The Act specifies there must be certain things included in support planning for carers, such as emergency and future planning, the carer’s personal outcomes, how much care the carer is willing and able to provide, and whether any support could include a break from caring.
Each local authority must also maintain or establish an information and advice service for carers. The services must provide information and advice about certain topics, including carers’ rights, income maximisation, advocacy, bereavement support, and emergency and future care planning.
The key duty in the Act is that carers who meet eligibility criteria must be provided with support to meet their identified needs. When carers do not meet eligibility criteria for support, local authorities must set out how they will meet those needs.
Each local authority must set their own local eligibility criteria, and must consult and involve carers and representative organisations when developing the criteria.
The Act has a lot of focus on carer involvement – both in local strategy development and development of services, and in assessment and services provided to the cared for person. There is also a duty on health boards to involve carers in hospital discharge of the person they look after.
The Scottish Government has set up a number of working groups to take forward the development of regulations and guidance, leading up to the implementation of the Act in April 2018. The groups are made up of different stakeholders, including carers, and will be chaired by Scottish Government officials. Groups will then feed back to the Carers Act Implementation Steering Group.