Despite the existence of £400m of Government funding and a dramatic rise in the official number of carers, Carers Trust is today warning that carers needs are in grave danger of being ignored.

In 2010 the Government allocated an extra £400m over four years (2011-2015) to provide breaks for carers. Annual reports by Carers Trust, the UK’s largest carers charity, since then have shown that Primary Care Trusts have consistently failed to show how they are using that money to support carers. 
 
Its latest research shows that there continues to be a lack of transparency and accountability from PCTs over the provision of carer breaks – a crucial element in safeguarding a carer’s physical and mental health, allowing them to continue with their caring role. 
 
The report coincides with new statistics from the 2011 Census, which show that the number of unpaid carers in England and Wales has risen by more than 500,000 to 5.8million. 
 
From a random sample of 50 PCTs, Carers Trust found that only 12 had fully met all requirements set out in the NHS Operating Framework 2012-13. A key requirement of this framework is that PCTs must publish both budgets and plans to show how they are providing carers breaks, yet less than half (24) had achieved this. 
 
Other findings from the Carers Breaks on the brink? report show that, of the 50 PCTs surveyed: 

  • 14 failed to publish a plan or budget
  • Six published a plan only
  • Six just published a budget

This comes at a time of unprecedented change around the commission of carer services. From April 2013, Care Commissioning Groups will be responsible for planning, commissioning and delivering services. However, they will not be tasked with publicising the steps they are taking to support carers. 
 
Thea Stein, Chief Executive of Carers Trust, said that this crucial difference in lack of direct accountability could result in carers needs being ignored.
 
“Changes to the way that those planning, delivering and commissioning care are held to account may present risks for sustained investment by the NHS in supporting carers,” she said. 
 
“Our research shows that certain areas have consistently failed to meet their duties to support carers and our fear is that, with a lack of clarity of how CCGs accountability, that this will continue. 
 
“Local implementation and development of mechanisms for carers to hold their local commissioners to account are critical. Carers Trust believes it is imperative that CCGs seize the opportunity to work with carers and local partners to build on progress made."
 
Commenting on the report, Dr Clare Gerada, Chair of The Royal College of General Practitioners, said: 
 
“The RCGP recognises the important role that carers play in society and supports the recommendations made by Carers Trust. Caring day in, day out can be a strain on carers’ physical and mental health and carers’ breaks are an excellent way of minimising this stress. It is vital that funds to provide this service are used correctly and recorded as such. 
 
“The RCGP has a very productive partnership with Carers Trust and has produced a number of resources, including a guide for GP practices offering practical advice on how family doctors can best support carers.”
 
Carers Trust has today launched a series of recommendations to ensure that carers needs are taken into account by CCGs: 

  1. Clinical Commissioning Groups should work with local authorities, carers and local carers’ organisations to continue to develop support for carers, refresh local Carers Strategies (where necessary) and ensure that carers benefit from the funding made available to the NHS up until 2015.
  2. Clinical Commissioning Groups should work in partnership with local authorities, carers and local services to identify clear and accessible ways to present information on how they are supporting carers and allocating funding for carers services and carers breaks. 
  3. The NHS Commissioning Board should ensure that Clinical Commissioning Groups are working towards improvements in support for carers. The Commissioning Board should build on the commitments to supporting carers in the NHS Mandate and give clear guidance on the ways in which the outcomes and statements relating to carers can be achieved.