Give more support to family carers

Labour believes family carers in Barnet need more information and support when helping loved ones find a care home or supporting them once they are in a care home. That was the message from an event for carers of people in Barnet care homes held at Barnet House last week.

The local Family Carers Forum is aiming to start a sub-committee to look specifically at care homes and the event kick started that process.

With the Care Act being introduced next year, Labour says the need for full information and advice for people has never been more urgent. Barnet has 103 registered care and nursing homes, and a high proportion of the borough’s residents are aged over 65, with that age group set to increase over time according to council projections.

The message from all the event’s speakers was twofold:

  • Carers and their families need as much information as possible because it is a hard job choosing the right home often at an emotionally stressful time;
  • Staff in care homes must have better hands-on training, not done sitting in front of a computer. Their job is hard but poor care can come from poor training or shortage of staff as much as from abuse by individual people.

According to Judy Downey from the Relatives and Residents Association, the situation wasn’t helped by the Government loosening regulations for inspecting standards in care homes, so they were now more ‘light touch.’

Barbara Jacobson from Barnet Council’s Improving Quality in Care Homes Team, described how they were working closely with care home managers to promote best practice, like making referrals to GPs easier for home residents. They had set up a Facebook-type network so care home managers could talk to each other, and people at the meeting thought this would be a great idea also for relatives and residents if practical.

Barnet Council has identified the need for more information and support for carers in its Joint Strategic Needs Assessment report, and in its Carers’ Strategy - which was last refreshed in 2012 and now needs updating. The Labour Group set aside £250k of public health money for supporting carers in their alternative budget this year - which was not supported by the Conservative Group.

Cllr Philip Cohen, a member of the council’s Adults and Safeguarding Committee, said “'Carers do such an important job but when it comes to dealing with care homes they often lack advice and support at a very stressful time.

The Care Act will come into effect next year and will have big implications for all carers. They will be entitled to a separate assessment taking into account the proposed cap on care costs for their family members, and they will need the right information and support to help them make the right choices for loved ones.”

Notes:

  1. Details of the Family Carers Forum event: http://www.barnet.gov.uk/news/article/579/family_carers_invited_to_share_experiences_and_ideas
  2. Carer’s Strategy 2009-13: http://www.barnet.gov.uk/downloads/download/651/barnet_carers_strategy_2009-12
  3. Joint Strategic Needs Assessment recommendations on Carers:

Recommendations

The multi-agency strategy produced in 2009, Barnet Carers Strategy 2009-2012, identified a wealth of successful initiatives and good practice operating in the borough to support carers. But it also outlined a number of gaps and priorities for the council, the PCT and voluntary sector partners to tackle, including:

• Whole area approach to supporting carers, and clear support pathway clearly joining up with mainstream support, targeted preventative support, and support for carers in high need;

• Improved understanding, appreciation and support of carers by professional staff and employers which recognises the increasing demands on carers as more people with support needs are cared for in their homes;

• The need for more comprehensive and accessible information for carers which reflects the often transient and changing role of caring as well as the diversity of backgrounds of carers;

• Continuing to improve partnership working across agencies with signposting to additional support options and in recognition that many carers are themselves vulnerable adults;

• Improved options for emergencies/contingencies to help prevent inappropriate need for residential or hospital care and which maintain continuity for the cared for person;

• The need for a wider variety of ‘carers’ break’ options which support the diversity of individual lifestyles.

For more information contact Cllr Phil Cohen: 07867 538 486

To contact the Barnet Labour Group: 020 8359 2568

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