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Unpaid carers in Gwent, and across Wales, urgently need clarity about extra demands being placed on them in light of social care reductions

19 August 2021

Exhausted unpaid carers in Gwent are deeply concerned to learn that local councils are planning to reduce support that enables them to look after vulnerable people and their own well-being.

Councils in the Aneurin Bevan Health Board area have indicated that they plan to ask families to take on additional caring tasks due to challenges in the availability of the social care workforce. This comes at a time when unpaid carers have already been caring for longer with significantly reduced support throughout the pandemic as many services were already scaled back due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Worryingly, a similar announcement was made by Swansea Council and Swansea Bay University Health Board two weeks ago.

Carers Wales is urging councils to clearly define what areas of need unpaid carers are being asked to cover and timelines for when services will be resumed.

Carers Wales research has found 72%[1] of unpaid carers in Wales haven’t been able to take any breaks from their caring role whatsoever since the start of the pandemic around a year and a half ago. Over three quarters say they are exhausted from additional caring burdens during the pandemic and 2 in 5[2] family carers say they simply can’t manage their caring role. With analysis finding unpaid carers saved Wales £33 million[3] every day during the height of the pandemic, it is deeply unfair to request unpaid carers shoulder the burden of challenges in the social care workforce.

The Welsh Government have announced plans to recover capacity in the health and social care system as Wales recovers from the pandemic. We appreciate challenges in the social care workforce are being replicated in many communities across Wales but believe the Welsh Government’s plans must now be expedited to avoid a crisis in unpaid caring.

Carers in the Gwent area are also in need of urgent clarity. From the limited statements put out already it is unclear for how long local social care chiefs expect the workforce challenges to persist. Social care leaders in the area must be upfront, specific and honest with unpaid carers in their region about the level of disruption to care packages they expect, and how long they expect the situation to last. They must publish this information, and a roadmap with timescales for the eventual recovery and re-instatement of local services. It is only with this clarity that carers can plan for the immediate future and make an informed choice about the care they provide; in keeping with the principles of voice and control for carers enshrined in the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 that now appear to be at risk in Gwent.

If changes to care packages are to be made, assurances should be given that these changes are extraordinary and will not become the new normal. Councils and the Welsh Government should also explore creative solutions to lessen the additional burden on carers, such as through a fast-tracked direct payments system for carers so they can arrange support separately.

In media coverage of this situation and announcements regarding it, we would appreciate an effort to ensure terminology is correct. In Wales, a ‘carer’ is defined in the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 as someone who provides care to a family member or friend on an unpaid basis. There are hundreds of thousands of carers across Wales providing this unpaid care to vulnerable people, many around the clock. Paid care workers should be referred to by their job type to avoid confusion among carers and the public.

Jake Smith, Carers Wales Policy Officer said;

“It is deeply concerning that exhausted unpaid carers in Gwent are being asked to take on yet more caring duties in light of social care reductions, especially as Gwent is not the first area to propose this recently. Whilst we appreciate there are real challenges in the social care workforce, placing additional burdens on already worn-down unsupported unpaid carers risks their ability to continue caring and ultimately could place further strain on the NHS and councils. Councils needs to be upfront and clear with carers about the changes they are proposing and must set out when they expect services levels to be recovered. To prevent challenges in social care turning into a wider crisis for unpaid carers, the Welsh Government must step in and expedite its plans to recover capacity in health and social care."

  -  ENDS -


Media contact

Please contact the Carers Wales office on 029 2081 1370 (Mon-Fri) Out of hours: 07377 723895

About Carers Wales

Carers Wales is part of Carers UK. We are a charity led by carers, for carers – our mission is to make life better for carers.

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[1] Carers Week 2021 Research Report (2021)

[2] ibid

[3] Carers Wales: Unpaid carers in Wales have saved £33 million every day of the pandemic (2020)

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