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The Government last night (Tuesday 31st March) published guidance for local authorities on how they should use the new Care Act easements, created under the Coronavirus Act 2020.

The new Care Act easements mean that where local authorities have to re-prioritise their resources to respond to coronavirus, their duty to carry out full needs assessments of unpaid carers, and those needing care, does not apply if:

  • their workforce is significantly depleted, or
  • the demand on social care increases to an extent that it is no longer reasonable practicable for the local authority to comply with its Care Act duties.

Should local authorities choose to “switch on” these easements, there will also be a reduction in the number of carer support plans, and care and support plans for those in need of care, being carried out.

Families won’t have to undergo financial assessments when requesting care during this period, but the assessments and charges can be back-dated.

To help unpaid carers during the Coronavirus outbreak, the Government has introduced a new aspect to the eligibility criteria for claiming Carer’s Allowance, the main benefit for people caring 35 hours or more per week.

The new regulations, which come into force today (Monday 30th March 2020), allow unpaid carers in England and Wales to continue to claim Carer’s Allowance if they have a temporary break in caring, because they or the person they care for gets coronavirus or if they have to isolate because of it.

The Government has also confirmed that providing emotional support counts towards the Carer’s Allowance threshold of 35 hours of care a week – an issue which has been concerning many carers.

The measures will be reviewed in six months’ time.

The Government has introduced an emergency draft Bill to help the NHS and local authorities better tackle the Coronavirus.

Through this Bill, the Government will reduce the need for local authorities to carry out needs assessments of unpaid carers and those needing care. It will also reduce the number of carer support plans, and care and support plans for those in need, through this legislation.

The Government has said the measures in the Coronavirus Bill are temporary, proportionate to the threat, will only be used when strictly necessary and will be in place for as long as required to respond to the situation.

After promises by the new Government to deliver a solution for the social care crisis, the Chancellor Rishi Sunak did not mention social care in the Government's first Budget today.

  • Charity Carers UK launches free tool to help validate the skills gained through caring
  • Learning for Living supports carers to re-enter work or review their current job
  • Digital badge recognised by employers as part of professional development
  • Care Minister trials programme with unpaid carers at Carers UK head office

Today the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has published its latest report on poverty, which shows as many as a quarter of unpaid carers in the UK are living in poverty.

Other findings show:

  • Working-age carers have a higher rate of poverty than those with no caring responsibilities, and women of working age who are carers have the greatest risk of all.
  • The inability to work is the key driver for poverty among carers. In 2017/18, 36% of working-age carers were not in work, compared with 23% of non-carers.
  • If you care for 20 hours or more a week, you have a higher risk of being in poverty than if you care for fewer than 20 hours. However, to receive Carer’s Allowance you must care for 35 hours or more per week.
  • Those who care 35+ hours a week are three times less likely to be working as those caring fewer than 20 hours a week.
  • The weekly household income is £100 a week less for people who are caring.
  • Carer prevalence is at its highest among working-age adults in their 50s and early 60s, who are twice as likely to be carers as younger adults.

The Local Government Information Unit has today published its 2020 State of Local Government Finance report. It shows near universal disappointment amongst councils (97%) in the Government’s progress in delivering a sustainable funding system for local government.

The report also shows that:

  • Confidence in the sustainability of local government finance remains very low, with three quarters (74%) of councils saying they do not feel confident.
  • 1 in 10 councils (12%) say they are in danger of being unable to fulfil statutory duties this year
  • Productivity in providing publicly funded social care has declined by over 9% since 1997.
  • 98% of the senior decision-makers responding to the survey said they were disappointed in the Government’s progress in delivering a long-term social care strategy.
  • Adult social care remains the top long-term pressure.

In an interview on BBC Breakfast this morning (Tuesday 14th January 2020) the Prime Minister Boris Johnson committed to bringing forward a plan for social care reform this year and implementing it by the end of Parliament.

The Queen has today (Thursday 19th December) set out the Government's agenda in the State Opening of Parliament. In the Queen’s Speech, the new Government committed to introduce an entitlement to leave for unpaid carers juggling paid work with caring responsibilities, something which Carers UK has long been campaigning for.

Age UK has today released new research which shows 1 in 3 people over 80 are unpaid carers for sick or disabled relatives. The research reveals they save our economy a huge £23 billion a year through the unpaid care they give loved ones.

Commenting on the priorities for the new Government, Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said:

  • Figures released for Carers Rights Day show two thirds of UK adults can expect to care unpaid for a loved one in their lifetime
  • Women taking on caring responsibilities a decade earlier than men
  • Carers UK calls for sustainable investment in social care to support millions of carers

The Work and Pensions Committee has today published the government’s response to its report on overpayments of Carer’s Allowance, the main benefit for people caring for more than 35 hours a week.

Carers UK has previously called for the Department of Work and Pensions to write off these overpayments where its own administrative delays have allowed them to accrue; this was also a recommendation made by the Work and Pensions Committee in its report. In its response the department does not commit to writing off overpayments or reviewing whether the majority of overpayments should be pursued.

Carers UK also made a number of other recommendations such as: improving communications to carers about the rules for earnings with Carer’s Allowance, researching the impact of overpayments on carers, looking at the barriers that the earnings limit places on carers and, finally, aligning the earnings limit with the equivalent of 16 hours of the National Living Wage – to make the benefits system smoother and preventing carers from leaving work.

Carers UK has published a manifesto for carers calling on all political parties to commit to improving the lives of the UK’s 6.5 million unpaid carers.

The Secretary of State for Work and Pensions has today laid a Written Ministerial Statement in the House of Commons on changes to social security benefit and pension rates for 2020/21. These will come into force in April 2020.

Carer’s Allowance will rise by 1.7% to £67.25 a week, an increase of £1.10 from the current rate of £66.15 a week.

NHS Digital has today released 2018-19 data on Adult Social Care Spending in England, which includes support for those caring unpaid for adults.

In today's Queen's Speech (14th October 2019) the government committed to bring forward proposals to "to reform adult social care in England, to ensure dignity in old age."

New research launched today by Aviva suggests an estimated 2.6 million people in the UK aged 45 and above expect to give up work to care for older or disabled relatives. The research shows the impact is likely to be greater for women than for men, with 20% of women believing they would need to give up work to care compared with 17% of men.   

Yet the research found that only 6% of employers were treating this as a critical issue. 

  • Freedom of Information request reveals unpaid carers seeking replacement care for loved ones subjected to a postcode lottery
  • Hundreds of thousands of carers going without enough sleep or seeing a doctor
  • Give carers a break if we truly want to improve our social care system

The Chancellor today (Wednesday 4th September 2019) set out the Government’s spending priorities in a one-year budget review, committing £1.5 billion to social care.

Ahead of the Government’s one-year spending review tomorrow, Wednesday 4th September, Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK last week wrote to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Sajid Javid MP, and the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock MP, to reiterate key short term spending priorities for unpaid carers.

She called on the Government to use this opportunity to increase support for carers; specifically, by doubling the amount of money available for carers’ breaks through the Better Care Fund, to ensure carers get the much needed respite that they need.

Carers UK also calls on the Government to confirm a short-term injection of funds to bridge the immediate funding gap for social care, and to outline in detail a sustainable and effective plan for how social care will be delivered and funded over the longer-term.

The National Institute for Health and Social Care Excellence (NICE) has today published draft guidelines for local authorities and health and social care practitioners on supporting unpaid carers.

The guidelines include directing carers to appropriate financial and emotional support, as well as encouraging them to discuss supportive working arrangements with their employers.

NICE has also recommended introducing peer support groups and appointing a carers’ champion within the workforce, who can implement the recommendations made in the guidelines and help other staff understand the responsibilities outlined in the Care Act 2014.

The Work and Pensions Committee has today released a critical report on the Department for Work and Pensions' handling of Carer’s Allowance overpayments. The Committee calls on the DWP to completely reassess its approach and consider writing off debts due to its own protracted administrative failures.

The Department for Health and Social Care has today (Tuesday 23rd July 2019) published its one year progress review of the Carers Action Plan, which was initially launched on 5th June 2018 and set out how the Government would improve support for unpaid carers in England over the next two years (until 2020).

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