The National Assembly for Wales’ Finance Committee recently consulted on the Welsh Government’s Draft Budget for 2016/17. Responding to the consultation, Carers Trust Wales flagged up the increasing pressure that services for carers are facing, as well as the need for clarity on dedicated national funding to support carers.
We also called for the extension of the Pupil Deprivation Grant to young carers and for the introduction of a national short breaks fund for carers in Wales.
Carers Trust Wales argued that:
- There are at least 370,000 carers in Wales providing valuable unpaid care. Enabling carers to maintain their own well-being and the well-being of those they care for through carer-focused services is essential in promoting a healthier, more equal Wales.
- The research and evidence base clearly demonstrates that support and services for carers plays a vital part in speeding up transfers in care, avoiding hospital admissions and safeguarding the NHS in Wales from increased and expensive demand.
- Despite this, services for carers, including holistic information, advice and support services and regulated care services intended to provide carers with a break, are under mounting financial pressure and at increased risk of failure or closure. This is a result of the ongoing pressure on local authority budgets. The draft budget does not alleviate our concerns that the existing services for carers are at risk and there is a lack of investment in services for carers.
- Carers Trust Wales recognises that the Welsh Government has finite resources and that difficult decisions have to be made. However, we believe there is a lack of focus or clarity on Wales’ 370,000 carers in the budget. It is just not clear which funding is intended to support carers.
- For the past three years, local health boards have been funded to deliver upon their carers strategies, developed with local authorities and as required by the Carers Strategies (Wales) Measure 2010. It is still not clear in the budget whether this small £1.1million funding to local health boards to implement their carers’ strategies will continue, and if not whether it will still be used in other ways to support carers across Wales.
- A small national investment in support for carers of around £1.4million, similar to Scotland’s Short Breaks Fund and delivered by the third sector, would secure at least 54,000 hours of care to give carers a break, or 2,040 weeks of respite and would provide preventative services to carers that are safeguarded from local authority budget pressures.
- In April 2016 the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 will come into force. The Act places carers on the same legal footing, with the same rights and entitlements, as those that they care for. We are concerned that there is not the sufficient resource in place to deliver upon these new rights and entitlements.
- We are deeply concerned about the implications of the proposed £41million cut to the higher education budget. This funding is used to fund part-time and other priority education areas. Part-time provision has been under significant pressure in recent years. For many carers part-time is the best option for them to enter higher education, this cut could present further barriers to this already disadvantaged group.
- There are nearly 12,000 carers under 18 in Wales, and Wales has the highest proportion of carers under 18 in the UK. Despite this, there continues to be a lack of identification or support of young carers in schools. Young carers miss or cut short nearly five weeks of school every year. By the time they reach 16, a young carer is more than twice as likely as their peer to be out of education, employment or training. We would welcome the pupil deprivation grant being explicitly extended to this vulnerable and disadvantaged group.