This strategy has been developed by Staffordshire County Council and the NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) as a joint approach to supporting carers and commits us to working in partnership with carers, health and social care providers, communities and employers with the aspiration to develop a society that is carer friendly, which values and supports carers to fulfil their caring role and maintain their health and wellbeing.
- The value and importance of carers to health and social care and broader society is ever increasing with our ageing population. For most carers the experience of looking after someone close is rewarding and has a positive impact on the people they care for, however, too often carers feel they are on their own, do not feel respected, valued and supported for the huge contribution they make.
- Many carers find that they cannot access the support they need to make their caring role more manageable, they navigate through complex systems and pathways that are not always equitable, clear, flexible and responsive, nor reflect the fact that carers can be at different stages in the caring journey. This can result in stress and isolation which can affect carers emotional and physical health. If left unchecked, this can be a pre-cursor to carer breakdown, in some circumstances requiring the emergency mobilisation of statutory services.
- The support which carers give is a vital part of the health and social care system, particularly as local authorities, NHS and the wider public sector face financial challenges of an unprecedented scale. We have to consider sustainability and value for money in all our services, balancing demand and quality with cost. We must support local communities to develop to be strong and inclusive, be sustainable and support carers to help themselves, enabling us to target our resources for those who are most in need of support.
- This Strategy will support the ongoing development of communities to ensure a credible local offer and further explore the opportunities presented by technology to support carers, enabling them to keep well and manage their caring role safely. This is also addressed in wider strategies and plans such as the Whole Life Disability Strategy, Health and Wellbeing Strategy ‘Living Well in Staffordshire’ and as part of the Council’s Supportive Communities initiative.
- Our aspiration is to develop a society that is carer friendly, which values and supports carers to fulfil their caring role and maintain their health and wellbeing. Therefore, we have placed emphasis on prevention to avoid, reduce or delay dependency on health and care services by increasing the resilience of individuals and communities.
- We will help those carers who are eligible and provide support in times of crisis: we will ensure that they receive the right support, at the right time and develop plans to help reduce or delay longer term support needs. We will do this in a way which is safe and financially sustainable.
- We shall not overlook young carers. Many young carers in Staffordshire are ‘hidden’ unknown until they, or their families, identify other issues which require intervention from statutory services. We must therefore improve the way we work with schools and other agencies who come into contact with children and young people, to better identify young carers and help them to identify themselves, to enable swift access to support when required.
- This strategy reaffirms our commitment to working in partnership with carers, health and social care providers, communities and employers to support carers wellbeing and help carers to carry on caring. In Staffordshire, we have a strong voluntary and community sector which works effectively in partnership with statutory organisations. It is our wish to support the development of relationships between organisations, to foster meaningful partnerships underpinned by the priorities set out within this strategy, working towards a common goal, to strengthen the support to and recognition of carers.
- This Strategy commits us to working proactively together through financial challenges and ensuring the most appropriate use of resources to achieve the best outcomes for carers in Staffordshire. We cannot do this alone and therefore, this strategy includes a call to arms to community groups, businesses, schools and colleges, and the third sector for a shift towards a genuine collaborative approach.
- We shall with our key partners respond to the immense commitment shown by carers, by committing ourselves to taking forward the priorities and actions in this strategy and come together with support organisations to make a real impact on the lives of local carers. We shall all come together for the benefit of our carers, so that we can honestly say that we are ‘all together for carers’.
What you have told us
In a range of engagement across a raft of programmes and during 12 weeks of extensive engagement specifically around the initial draft of this strategy, you have told us:
- Pathways and processes for Carers are at times inequitable, inconsistent and unclear, with no single point of initial contact to access.
- Where carers utilise statutory services, they want these to work in a more joined up way, so that they don’t have to keep repeating their story.
- There is variable practice around Carers depending on the assessment and care management function that is working with the Carer and/ or the cared for. The system was described by some as time consuming and challenging, often at a time of great stress.
- Commissioned services were not widely known or used across the entire assessment and care management function, with inconsistent signposting practice.
- Carers are not always clear what is on offer. Carers want information that is relevant to them, as and when they need it, in a format to suit them and their lifestyles, e.g. some carers would like to access information in the form of an app, whereas others do not want to access information online or via a smartphone and would prefer to simply talk to someone.
- Some carers are concerned about their financial situation, so whilst carers would welcome support, they worry about benefits being stopped.
- Many carers find fulfilment in their caring role and would like to be able to balance caring with other commitments, such as work, education or training. Carers employers are not always understanding of their caring responsibilities.
- Carers want a life outside of caring, often a break for a few hours to pursue interests or have social interaction is enough. Carers expressed that access to respite is complicated and inflexible.
- Young carers report their highest need is for support to help them to manage at home in their caring role. More engagement is required with schools and other agencies who come into contact with children and young people, to better identify young carers and help them to identify themselves, to enable swift access to support when required.
- Some carers report that they would value informal support from the community to help with small tasks such as collecting prescriptions, transporting to medical appointments, gardening, and to prevent feelings of isolation and loneliness.
- Self-directed support arrangements are unclear and some felt they are open to potential misuse. Carers want choice, control, flexibility and consistency with up to date information and advice on their self-directed support options.
- Some felt that we need to get better at identifying carers so that we help to avoid carer crisis. They also stated that no one person is the same, people are at different points and want to be treated as an individual and respond accordingly. They need to know where and how they can get help in an emergency if they can’t continue to care.
- Many commented that there is a degree of “hostility” and “competition” between some providers of carer support, with a general feeling of not working collectively for the “greater good”.
- Many commented that it can be confusing for carers when more than one organisation is providing the same support in the same area of the county. There was a general view that funding needs to be better spread amongst carer support organisations and across localities, with ways of working based on communities, avoiding duplication of support where possible.