Government announce £4.4m boost for support for carers

From Community Care magazine, 13 October 2010. (“Exclusive” report by Jeremy Dunning).

Training and support measures for carers are set for a £4.4m boost through 11 awareness-raising and capacity-building projects rising from the ashes of the Caring with Confidence programme.

In an exclusive interview, care services minister Paul Burstow revealed details of targeted measures to improve awareness of carers among frontline professionals and give charities such as Carers UK the means to provide training themselves.

Linked with this will be an initiative to provide grants of up to £25,000, out of a £1m total allocation, to patient group charities such as the Stroke Association to embed support for carers in their work.

Burstow said the government believes this will pick up carers who are otherwise being missed, although he would not comment on the future of the carers’ grant, which many fear will be slashed in the spending review.

“This is direct investment in frontline charities and into better awareness and training for frontline staff to improve that identification of carers in the first place and it means more carers will get help,” he said.

Some of the money is going to charities such as the Princess Royal Trust for Carers, Carers UK, the Afiya Trust and Crossroads to ensure they are fully equipped to support and identify carers earlier and provide them with the right level of support.

There will be a programme of training places for GPs through the Royal College of GPs, while another will provide more training and briefing for health and social care workers through the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services.

The £4.4m Caring with Confidence programme was designed to improve support for carers and was due to reach 27,000 carers by the end of March 2011.

It was axed in July amid claims that carers were poorly targeted and that it did not deliver on the numbers of training places, although it also had its supporters.

Burstow sees the reinvested money as working alongside a refreshed carers’ strategy, which is due out in November.

This is due to have a clearer emphasis on the early identification of carers and the earlier self-identification of carers.

It is also connected to work being carried out by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills on greater flexibility in terms of work.

In this context, Burstow said the Department of Health wanted support measures to ensure people can stay in jobs rather than leave when caring responsibilities loom. There will, however, be little extra money.

This is Burstow’s first ministerial post and comes at a time when his room for manoeuvre has been curtailed by severe spending restrictions.

During the Liberal Democrat conference he attacked councils for cutting eligibility for services and has consistently argued that through increased personalisation more could be done for less, while at the same time increasing choice and control.

Burstow said: “There are things that local government should be doing first before it starts shutting the door and tightening its eligibility criteria.”

He will reveal how local government should perform when he unveils his vision for adult social care next month, which will in essence be a platform for greater personalisation.

Burstow refused to accept it would not be deliverable because of spending constraints. Some experts argue that as the budgets are cut, the amount of choice will diminish.

He said: “Our view as a government is that more direct payments, more personal budgets will open up the possibility of far more providers, far more organisations to provide the support that people actually want.”

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