A Charge on Caring?

Resource title: A Charge on Caring? Analysis of the Use and Impact of Charges by Councils Providing Support to Unpaid Carers
Published: 2015    Author: Carers Trust

We sent a Freedom of Information request to all councils in England with responsibility for social care asking them whether or not they are currently charging carers for support or are considering introducing charges in the next year.

We wanted to establish exactly how many councils are using charges, how are they are being applied, and the impact they are having on carers.

We also spoke to carers subject to the charges to find out how they are affecting them.

Key points

  • Eight councils who responded to our FOI request (5%) of total are now charging carers for support.
    23 councils who replied (15% of those who have responsibility for social care) will be debating the introduction of charges in the next 12 months.
  • ADASS has strongly recommended that councils do not charges carers, arguing that to do so is a false economy.
  • Councils are expected to face a £4.3bn gap in social care funding by 2020.
    Unless action is taken by central government to plug the gap in funding in social care, we expect the number of councils charging carers for support to increase.

About the resource

In our report we make the case for why we believe your council should reconsider its position on charges. Our main arguments are:

  • It is wrong in principle: Carers provide support, unpaid, which would otherwise need to be provided by others, potentially from public funds. The role and importance of unpaid carers needs to be celebrated and they should be given more, not less support.
  • Charging risks discouraging carers from accessing the support they need: Our social care system relies on the UK’s 7 million unpaid carers. If they are put off applying for the support they need to continue caring, they are more likely to become physically or mentally unwell, or less able to continue caring in the long term. People in need will then depend on our over-stretched health and social care services. 
  • Charging puts carers at financial risk: Carers are more likely than average to face financial difficulties. Expecting them to pay for essential support services will increase those pressures.
    Charging is not cost effective: Although charging could have a big impact on each individual carer, the cost to the council of administering a charge is likely to exceed the amount awarded to the carer.  

Our recommendations

  • Any council currently charging carers for support should reverse that policy and ensure that support services provided for carers under the Care Act are offered free of charge.
  • Councils considering introducing charges must fully investigate the likely impact on carers and their local social care system. Any evidence that there will be a detrimental impact on either of these should be taken as a sign that charges should not be introduced.
  • Councils that are debating the introduction of charges should ensure that this decision is put out to public consultation and that they seek opinion from carers and care providers.
  • The UK government should make it mandatory for councils to record data on the number of carers being charged for support and the amount that they are being charged.
  • The Department of Health should conduct a study in April 2016, one year after the introduction of the Care Act, on the impact that charges are having on carers
  • The UK government must increase the overall level of funding provided to councils for social care.

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