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Enough care for the carers
There isn’t a law that says you have to care for your relatives if they’re in need of care. That might seem a strange statement, and until 1948 there was such a law, the Poor Law 1930 to be precise said that; 'It shall be the duty of the father, grandfather, mother, grandmother, husband or child, of a poor, old, blind, lame or impotent person, or other poor person not able to work, if possessed of sufficient means, to relieve and maintain that person.' Indeed similar legal duties do exist in other countries.
The law around carers has changed again very recently with the introduction of the Care Act 2014 and in this blog I want to have a look at the changes it makes, in particular in relation to caring for someone with mental health problems.
How much care?
There’s been legislation around for some time regarding duties of local authorities to assess the needs of carers, but first just to confirm what we mean by carers – someone who is a family member or friend in a caring role for an adult who has caring needs – not someone in a paid capacity or even in a volunteer capacity. Now in earlier legislation it was deemed that to be a carer you had to be providing ‘substantial and regular’ care. There were lots of difficulties with that such as how many hours constituted substantial. Indeed in supporting someone with mental health problems, whose mental well-being fluctuates they not be accepting care and support on a consistent and regular basis. The Care Act 2014 says that the local authority should carry out an assessment on someone where they are providing care, or intending to provide care for someone and it appears they have any level of need for support – that’s a much lower threshold to trigger an assessment. Of course, as the guidance points out, a carer does not have to accept an assessment if they don’t want.
What is care?
Now there’s another definition we need to mention, and that’s care itself. We often think of care being about practical help, shopping, cleaning etc. Now what the Care Act guidance says about the caring role is that it includes both practical and emotional support the carer provides to the adult. It goes onto say that the assessment of carer’s needs should consider not just what someone is doing for someone else, but what they might have to do in the future, and what caring for someone might stop them doing elsewhere in their life. Finally a word about caring for someone with mental health problems. The Care Act 2014 isn’t the only legislation telling professionals they should consider carer’s needs. The Mental Health Act Code of Practice says that it is important for mental health professionals to identify family members providing care and support, ensure they get an assessment of those needs, and that support is offered to meet those needs.
If you know of carers who might be in need of help the Care Act and the Mental Health Act can be a route to getting vital support.
David Beckingham – QCS Expert Mental Health Contributor