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The Care Act for Carers - what difference has a year made?


A typical day, a typical conversation in any carer support organisation like those which are part of the Carers Trust network.

Carer? Me? No no.

But Alan needs help 24 hours a day with his dementia doesn't he? And you're doing that all on your own?

Oh. Well, yes. But I'm his wife. That's just what I have to do.

And how are you Joan?

Well, you know.... We manage.

And whilst she's telling you how they're managing, she tells you she hasn't really slept in weeks because he wanders in the night, and that she never gets out of the house any more because Alan can't manage out and about, and she doesn't see a lot of other people any more. He's too heavy for her to move when she's trying to dress him so she hurt her back and the never-ending questions questions questions are really getting her down. She's waiting for some support from the council but she's not sure when it's coming through.

And then it becomes clear that the "managing" isn't really managing at all any more and that Joan is teetering right on the edge.

Joan is your mum, your auntie, your partner and your next door neighbour. There are hundreds of thousands of Joans.

Almost a year ago, changes came into force to the law in England that were intended to improve the rights of carers - over 5 million people who provide support, unpaid, to friends and family who couldn't manage without their help.

The Care Act gave rights in terms of assessment of needs, meeting those needs, a duty on local authorities to support carers to prevent their needs getting worse, and to provide them with information and advice they need to care - amongst other things.

A year on, it's time to take stock.

Nobody expects everything to be perfect yet. Some local authorities are still getting their heads round all that it might mean and how they can put the right systems in place. Many have responded for example, by reaching out to communities to find carers and help them self-identify as many carers simply don't realise they are one.

In a climate there local authorities are struggling to fund the very basics, it's no surprise that some are finding this a tall order. But with less and less available to support older and disabled people the result is that often, if the person can't manage on their own, even more falls to family members and friends.

Carers Trust, working with former Minister for Care and Support Paul Burstow, has launched a Commission on the Care Act and its impact for carers, one year on from implementation. There is good practice - and that should be shared so that other people can learn. But crucially we also need to know what's not working so that we can push harder to make sure carers get what they need. Help us by sharing what you know here by 18 March

Joan and the millions of other carers across England spend huge amounts of time and energy making sure the people they care for get what they need. Their own needs often end up right at the bottom of the list. This is our chance to put them first.

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