Question on Support for Carers in Wales

Dydd Mercher, 28 Tachwedd 2012
Wednesday, 28 November 2012


Mark Drakeford: A wnaiff y Gweinidog ddatganiad am gefnogaeth i ofalwyr yng Nghymru.
[Will the Minister make a statement on support for carers in Wales.]

The Deputy Minister for Children and Social Services (Gwenda Thomas): On 13 November, I published for consultation a draft of a refreshed carers strategy for Wales. The strategy provides a framework for achieving positive outcomes for carers. The final version will be published in April 2013, in line with the commitment we gave in our programme for government.

Mark Drakeford: As you will be aware, the Health and Social Care Committee, in our inquiry into residential care services, has worked closely with a reference group of individuals who are themselves carers of elderly people in the community and now in residential care. They have impressed on us, throughout our inquiry, the importance of the social services Bill in helping to shape services for carers in the future. Can you give us an assurance that, when the Bill is published, we can look to it to ensure that the interests of carers are properly represented and protected?

Gwenda Thomas: I refer Assembly Members to my written statement on 12 November, outlining measures to promote carers’ rights under the social services and wellbeing (Wales) Bill. This means that, for the first time, carers will have equivalent rights to those people whom they care for. The proposals will include measures to ensure that local authorities and local health boards provide, or arrange the provision of, a range and level of services, including preventative services to carers, that are accessible within the community, and will take account of the carers that you have described this afternoon.

Antoinette Sandbach: You will be aware of the excellent example of the Access to Action scheme, which supports young carers in Flintshire. It is a card that allows them to overcome the daily challenges they experience in the course of caring for their parents. One reoccurring difficulty is to do with picking up prescription medications from pharmacies. Can you confirm what steps you will take to help young carers with this specific issue, and what action will you be taking to spread this best practice in Flintshire across Wales?

Gwenda Thomas: That is the essence of what the Bill will do for carers. I am impressed with the ID card scheme, and Lindsay Whittle, I believe, brought that up during the last questions to the Minister. I want the strategy to look at examples such as the Flintshire ID card scheme when the strategy is refreshed, and you will know that I have launched a 12-week consultation on the refreshing of the strategy. I am sure you, like others, will want to feed in that good practice in Flintshire.

Lindsay Whittle: How will you monitor the extent to which occupational therapists, health workers and social workers work together to provide a more integrated homecare service?

Gwenda Thomas: The Bill will look at all aspects of the future delivery of social services. Occupational therapy is something that I have identified that can perhaps be delivered on a regional basis, and we are looking at that closely. The Bill will give us a strategic way forward for all of these services, and the services that you mentioned are intrinsic to the way forward and must be part of how we develop the Bill and how the Bill enables those services to deliver.

Lindsay Whittle: I can feel the hand of the chair, Mark Drakeford, in this question, but we have not spoken about it, I promise. On the carers strategy for Wales, what guidance will you be giving to health boards and local authorities on their duty to assess the needs of carers? Until now, as you obviously know, assessing the needs of carers was optional, but it will be compulsory, I believe.

Gwenda Thomas: The needs and rights of carers will be taken forward in the social services and wellbeing Bill. The carers strategy is an umbrella strategy and will look at the needs of carers. It is important that we recognise that this strategy has been a huge step forward since it was established in 2000. However, looking at what we can do now with a refreshed carers’ strategy is very important, and the strategic direction that this strategy will give, as I have mentioned, is the key to the way forward. The strategy sets out five areas where we want to achieve positive outcomes, and I will run through those quickly. They are: promoting carers’ rights through new social care legislation, improving the identification of carers and ensuring that they receive appropriate and timely information and advice, supporting young carers and young adult carers up to the age of 25, ensuring that all carers get the breaks that they need from caring, and supporting carers who work, or who wish to move back into work, and promoting flexibility among employers. Therefore, it is quite a wide-ranging strategy, and it is important now that we feed in to the consultation.