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Carers UK is delighted to be working alongside Carers Trust which is leading a dedicated programme to support hidden and under-represented groups of unpaid carers who have been most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic

In its advice published today, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has not included unpaid carers - people caring for older, disabled and seriously ill relatives - in its priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine. The priority groups are as follows:

1: Residents in a care home for older adults and their carers (here they refer to care workers)

2: All those 80 years of age and over Frontline health and social care workers

3: All those 75 years of age and over

4: All those 70 years of age and over Clinically extremely vulnerable individuals*

5: All those 65 years of age and over

6: All individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality

7: All those 60 years of age and over

8: All those 55 years of age and over

9: All those 50 years of age and over

On 2nd December new restrictions will come into force across England, with regions split into three tiers.

As in the previous tier system and throughout the second national lockdown, unpaid carers can continue to provide essential care. Support groups for unpaid carers can also continue in all three tiers.

The regulations allow carers in all three tiers to arrange for another family member or friend to provide respite care so that they can take a break.

Furthermore, the new regulations allow people caring for someone with a disability at home to form a support bubble with another household, a “linked household”. If they are just one adult caring for someone with a disability they can form a support bubble. If a carer has a child under 5 with a disability then even if there is more than one adult in the household they can form a support bubble.

Carers UK is renewing its calls for the UK Government to prioritise unpaid carers for the COVID-19 vaccine, after the Scottish Government announced it would do last week.

When Carers UK asked carers in October what support they needed most, carers ranked their prioritised access to vaccinations highly at second place, even putting this above breaks and increases in benefits such as Carer’s Allowance.

Caring during the pandemic has been one of the hardest things carers say they have done, as they have tried to manage with limited support from services that have been reduced or closed entirely. They have spent nine months worrying about the risk of infection to the people they care for with complex health or care conditions, and this has taken its toll on their own health.

Carers UK has raised the issue of prioritised access to the COVID-19 vaccination with the Minister for Care and it was a recommendation from the Carers Advisory Group to the Adult Social Care Taskforce. It was also a key recommendation in our recent Caring Behind Closed Doors: Six Months On report, published in October.

We want to see carers prioritised for the COVID-19 vaccination for the same reasons they are recognised as a key worker during this pandemic, and are prioritised for the flu jab.  The Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recognised that if carers got the flu, then this could be catastrophic, impacting carers’ ability to care and putting the person they care for at risk. When unpaid carers cannot continue to carry out care, this places additional pressure on social care and health services.  We want the same logic applied to the COVID-19 vaccination.

Last week, the Health Secretary in Scotland announced that unpaid carers would be on the priority list for the COVID-19 vaccination. Carers Scotland and Carers UK has warmly welcomed this move, but we are now calling on the other three Governments to follow suit and value carers.

  • Care provided by families valued at £135 billion over course of the pandemic so far
  • Carers UK calls on Government to recognise contribution of millions of carers and protect their health and wellbeing

In the Chancellor's one year Spending Review today, he promised the following for adult social care:

  • Local authorities will be able to increase their council tax bills by 2 per cent without needing to hold a referendum, and social care authorities will be able to charge an additional 3 per cent precept to help fund pressures in social care. 
  • This funding is additional to the £1 billion social care grant announced last year which is being maintained. The government expects to provide local authorities with over £3 billion to address Covid-19 pressures, including in adult social care.

In a survey of more than 100 councils by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), many are reporting unprecedented demand for help.

  • 82% of adult social services directors report rising demand for help from people being discharged from hospital;
  • 69% report an increase in cases of domestic abuse and safeguarding of vulnerable adults;
  • 63% report growing numbers of people seeking help because of the breakdown of unpaid carer arrangements through sickness or unavailability.

ADASS is warning that unless adult social care is prioritised in the government spending review on Wednesday, millions of people could be at risk of receiving no care or support as the crisis continues.

  • Research by the charity finds 45% of unpaid carers identified by their GP were not directed towards having a flu jab last winter
  • Those age 50-64 and caring for fewer hours, or newer to caring, were least likely to be directed towards having a flu jab
  • Carers UK highlights need for targeted campaign to encourage carers aged 50-64 to get their flu jab

The Department for Work and Pensions has announced that it would continue to extend easements for Carer’s Allowance.

This means Carer’s Allowance will continue to be paid to carers if they are self-isolating due to coronavirus and those providing emotional support will remain eligible. The extension is in place until May 2021.

Carers UK is delighted to announce that it has been chosen by the Telegraph as one of the charities it is supporting through its 2020 Charity Christmas Appeal.

From today, 7th November, through to January 2021 the charity will be working closely with the Telegraph to raise awareness of caring and the challenges faced by unpaid carers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The campaign will help draw attention to the issues affecting many of the 13.6 million people in the UK currently caring for a loved one, as well as the significant impact COVID -19 has had on carers health, wellbeing, relationships and finances.

Research carried out by Carers UK this year found 81% of unpaid carers with significant caring responsibilities are providing even more care for loved ones than before the pandemic, with 64% having been unable to take any breaks whatsoever since the first national lockdown. Two thirds are worried about how they will continue to manage over winter.

The charity also hopes to help many thousands of people who do not currently identify as a carer better recognise their caring role so that they can get the practical and emotional support they need.

Carers UK hopes to use the money raised through the Telegraph’s Christmas Appeal to extend its support services for carers, including its helpline which has seen a huge surge in demand since the pandemic started, and to train volunteers to support carers who are struggling to manage at the moment.

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services has today recommended that the Government provide £480 million to ensure that older people and working-age disabled adults continue to receive the care and support they need in their homes over the winter.

It has also called on the Government to deliver a further £1.2 billion to ensure that unpaid family carers get the breaks they need over the coming months, to enable them to continue providing vital, life-saving care and support.  

Carers UK calls on employers to actively support carers ahead of November lockdown in England

Carers UK and 74 other organisations representing unpaid carers, disabled adults and children, and older people, have joined together to amplify their previous call on the Government to recognise the financial impact COVID-19 continues to have on people caring round the clock for family members and friends.

Today, 3rd November, marks four months since the organisations first urged the Work and Pensions Secretary to recognise the financial difficulties unpaid carers are facing during the pandemic and introduce a supplement to Carer’s Allowance.

Despite the huge contribution being made by unpaid carers every day of the pandemic, with many having been unable to take a single break for months or return to work due to reduced care and support services, the Government has not acknowledged or responded to the letter, sent on 3rd July, which was signed by 92 leading national and local organisations who provide vital support for carers and their families, and who can see first-hand the challenges that they are facing.

Now, providing extraordinary hours of care each week and in many cases not being able to earn, a significant proportion of carers face further financial hardship over the coming winter.

Research by Carers UK, released a fortnight ago, shows well over a third (36%) of carers receiving Carer’s Allowance - just £67.25 a week for 35 hours or more of care - are struggling to make ends meet, with 15% having been in debt because of caring.

Earlier research with the Universities of Sheffield and Birmingham found more than 100,000 unpaid carers in the UK have had to rely on food banks during the pandemic.

During the lockdown 81% of carers said they are spending more money during the coronavirus outbreak – as they face rising costs include higher domestic bills, paying for additional care and support services, buying equipment to adapt homes, and purchasing technology to help with caring.

To help alleviate some of the financial hardship experienced by so many, the 75 organisations are calling for the Government to urgently act by:

  • Introducing an additional supplement to Carer’s Allowance, to match the recent £20 increase in Universal Credit that rightly recognises the challenges for people on lower incomes of meeting additional costs thrown up by the pandemic. They are also calling for accompanying rises to Carer Premium and Carer Addition, and for this payment to be made to carers with an underlying entitlement to Carer’s Allowance, so older carers on low incomes can also benefit. These payments should be backdated to recognise the lengths carers have gone to in supporting and caring for others during the crisis.

  • Raising the earnings limit for claiming Carer’s Allowance, to ensure those juggling work and care on low pay also receive financial support. The current earnings threshold, just £128 a week, does not align with the National Living Wage (NLW), meaning a carer can only work for less than 15 hours per week without losing their eligibility to Carer’s Allowance. The earnings limit should be raised to at least £139.52 for 2020/21 and should be linked to the National Living Wage in future years.

On Saturday 31st October the Prime Minister announced that there would be a second national lockdown in England starting on Thursday 5th November, after Parliament had debated the specific measures.

On 31st October, the Government announced it will be introducing new national lockdown restrictions to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, that will come into force on Thursday 5th November, if passed by Parliament.

As the Government finalises the regulations for the new lockdown period,  is it essential that the default position it takes within those regulations is that care homes remain open for visits for family and friends who are caring for residents, both now and in the future.

The Health and Social Care Committee has released a report, Social Care: Funding and Workforce, which calls for an immediate increase in investment to avoid the risk of market collapse. The Committee has called for a £7bn annual increase in social care funding, adding that this figure would not address the growing problem of unmet need nor improve access to care, with the full cost of adequate funding likely to run to tens of billions of pounds.

  • Four in five unpaid carers providing more care for relatives
  • 78% reported that the needs of the person they care for have increased during the pandemic
  • Two thirds (67%) worried about how they will cope through further lockdowns or local restrictions
  • Carers UK calls on Government to help reinstate crucial support services as soon as possible, and implement a New Deal for Carers

In its annual assessment of the state of health and social care in England, the Care Quality Commission looked at the quality of health and care both before the Covid-19 outbreak, and during the pandemic.

On social care, its assessment was: COVID-19 has not only exposed but exacerbated existing problems. The sector, already fragile, faced significant challenges around access to PPE, testing and staffing – and coordinated support was less readily available than for the NHS. The long-standing need for reform, investment and workforce planning in adult social care has been thrown into stark relief by the pandemic.

Today (Monday 12th October 2020) the Prime Minister announced a three tier system (medium, high and very high risk) of restrictions to manage the spread of Covid-19. The majority of areas in England are in the medium risk category, meaning they have to adhere to the rule of 6 indoors and outdoors, and pubs and restaurants must close by 10pm.

Most areas that had additional measures in place will be moved to tier 2 (high risk), as well as Nottinghamshire, east and west Cheshire and High Peak. In tier 2 areas no household mixing is allowed inside but the rule of six applies outside the home.

In tier 3 (very high risk) no household mixing is allowed inside or outside, and pubs, bars and gyms will be closed. The exact measures will be negotiated with local leaders.

In new guidance the Government has clarified how the Infection Control Fund can be used flexibly through the winter to limit the spread of Covid-19 in care settings.

The guidance clarifies that local authorities have a discretion to use 20% of their Infection Control Funding money for a variety of purposes to ensure infection control. This includes the resumption of services by care providers, support for carers’ organisations and the voluntary sector.

Services have only partially reopened in recent months because of infection control measures and they are supporting a limited number of people and carers, meaning that six months on from the outbreak some carers are still not getting support they really need.  Some services have not reopened at all. 

British lifestyle brand FatFace has launched a range of face coverings in a bid to support unpaid carers and raise awareness of their role through the pandemic.

It is donating 100% of the proceeds from its face coverings – now mandatory in all shops - to Carers UK, the national charity supporting unpaid carers looking after family and friends who are older, disabled or seriously ill.

The Government has announced that as of today, Tuesday 22nd September, unpaid carers will be exempt from interhousehold mixing restrictions in local areas of intervention.

Unpaid carers will be able to form care bubbles in areas of intervention or “lockdown” to allow families to share caring responsibilities with another household.

The Government has published an adult social care winter plan, which aims to curb the spread of coronavirus infections in care settings throughout the winter months.

The key measures include:

  • The continuation of the Infection Control Fund, with additional funding of £546 million for the winter months
  • Free personal protective equipment (PPE) for people receiving adult social care and care workers
  • A Chief Nurse for Adult Social Care to be appointed to provide leadership to the social care nursing workforce
  • Care providers to stop all but essential movement of staff between care homes to prevent the spread of infection
  • A new dashboard that will monitor care home infections and help local government and providers respond quicker

For carers, the Government has recommended that local authorities:

  • Make sure carers know what support is available to them and who to contact if they need help
  • Ensure that assessments are updated to reflect any additional needs created by COVID-19 of both carers and those in need of social care
  • Work with services that may have closed, over the pandemic, to consider how they can reopen safely or be reconfigured to work in a COVID-19 secure way and consider using the Infection Control Fund to put in place infection prevention and control measures to support the resumption of services
  • Where people who use social care services can no longer access the day care or respite services that they used before the pandemic, work with them to identify alternative arrangements that meet their identified needs

Alongside this it has also published the Adult Social Care COVID-19 Support Taskforce report. Our Director of Policy and Public Affairs, Emily Holzhausen, co-chaired the Carers Advisory Group which fed into the taskforce’s recommendations.

The Alzheimer’s Society has published a report on the provision of respite care and carer’s assessments for people affected by dementia. It looks closely at carers’ access to breaks and the barriers to getting them.

The key findings show:

  • There is a lack of dementia-appropriate services available for carers of people living with dementia to access when they need a short break
  • The shortage of appropriate respite places and care providers, and the difference in views between the carer and person receiving care as to whether they access the support, adds further to the stress of trying to get a break
  • Only a minority of carers have received a Carer’s Assessment, which they are entitled to by law if they are providing significant hours of care
  • Of those carers that have received an assessment, their experiences are mixed. Some carers reported that assessments can feel impersonal, providing telephone assessments and difficult conversations being managed badly as examples. It was reported that face-to-face assessments provided a more positive experience.
  • Few participants reported feeling as though their wishes around work and personal life were taken into consideration, with reports of carers feeling a loss of identity and seen as a carer rather than an individual. Carers also reported wanting more guidance on the support that is available.
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