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Current Hot Topic for October 2018


A Caring Nation?

Title

A Caring Nation?

Background Story

Concern is growing, according to carer charities, for the health and wellbeing of carers across the UK. Social care is in crisis, as the number of those needing support increases. The estimated £132 billion contribution made by carers (paid and unpaid) could be under threat due to government funding cuts and poor policies. Meanwhile, the size of the aging population continues to grow considerably (65+ account for 18% in UK).

Since the financial crisis of 2007/8, there have been big cuts across all local services. Charities and many carers suggest this leads to longer term problems, however, with unpaid/poorly paid family carers going largely unnoticed. 68% of carers report mental health issues, whilst 65% of older carers have long term health problems or disabilities.

According to Mary Highland, a full-time carer from Devon who looks after her husband with dementia, “if you live with someone you are their carer, whether you want to or not”. When she showed concern about being too old and tired, “they [local authorities] just blanked me”.

The report, on BBC Breakfast (20/9/2018), highlighted problems such as lack of respite, loss of income and unfairness in benefits. The cared for individual can receive a pension and attendance allowance, whereas the carer is not entitled to a carers allowance (£64 per week regardless of number of individuals cared for).

Chloe Wright, from Carers.org, is concerned about carers’ own health and happiness. They might not have the ability to “get enough sleep, eat healthily…get exercise…delaying [medical] treatment”. The lack of options (replacement care or respite) results in great pressure on a largely unrecognised but important “contribution to society”.

The Department of Health and Social Care states that they are looking into solutions through a “green paper”. However, these are only reports used to start parliamentary discussion, rather than provide real solutions. “Budgets are always tight,” stated Mary Highland, yet current spending in social care could be falling short for those who need support now.

By understanding that many families might be doing more than they should and that they can’t carry on as they are, carer charities believe more money and support in the short and long term should follow.


Vocabulary

Respite: “a short period of rest or relief from something difficult or unpleasant” [Google]. In terms of caring, it relates to a temporary break from this role.

Dementia: a group of symptoms affecting the brain (memory and thinking skills) [Age UK]

Facts:

  • 7 million carers in the UK (roughly 1 in 10).
  • Male carers: 42%, Female carers: 58%
  • By 2030, it is estimated there will be a 60% increase.
  • £64.60 per week is the care allowance, regardless of number of individuals being cared for.
  • Public spending in 2015-16 was £16.8 billion, supporting those who couldn’t afford the cost of care.
  • Spending dropped in real terms by 8% between 2009 and 2016 (and due to the increased ageing population, this actually resulted in a 13.5% drop per adult).

Further Information:

  • https://www.gov.uk/carers-allowance
  • https://carers.org/key-facts-about-carers-and-people- they-care

BBC Breakfast report, 20/9/18

Public spending on adult social care in England, IFS Briefing note BN200, Polly Simpson, Nuffield Foundation https://www.ifs.org.uk/uploads/publications/bns/BN200. pdf


Support Networks for Self-Neglect

Through focusing on care for a relative, this can sometimes lead to self-neglect. Carer charities have been set up to support carers from all walks of life, both paid and unpaid. Advice and help, along with building social connections to others who are dealing with similar issues, is available to carers. Support is given to those encountering financial problems, stress, exhaustion and medical issues of their own. Can you think of a set of guidelines that will help both carers and cared for people to help them understand how to manage their situation and the demands of the role? What support networks are available in your local area?


Care in Other Communities

58% of carers are women, whereas male carers account for only 42%. This might be due to the fact that women on average live longer (3+ years) or it could be connected with old-fashioned views- men as providers and women as carers. Also, different cultures hold different attitudes towards social care (such as Japan, who have the oldest population overall- 30% are 60+). How might we make things fairer? What issues might this cause? What do you know about family values in other cultures? How does looking after elderly relatives differ in other communities?


Risk Assessment

There appears to be a large risk to carers, particularly the 1 in 5 older carers (60+). Two thirds of carers report negative mental well being issues and long term health problems, partly due to financial pressures and lack of respite to look after their own needs. Families should look after their older members anyway. What do you think about this statement? What are the health and safety risks for carers over 60? Who are the health professionals that should carry out a risk assessment of the home? What equipment could the carers be using?


Action taken by the Government

Democracy in the UK follows rules and laws. Ideas to improve society and solve issues are developed in green papers – these are reports designed to start a discussion on a topic. Currently a new green paper is being written about social care, in an attempt to address short and long term problems. How might this way be a good/bad thing for carers? What do you think should be discussed in the green paper?


Action taken by the Government

Democracy in the UK follows rules and laws. Ideas to improve society and solve issues are developed in green papers – these are reports designed to start a discussion on a topic. Currently a new green paper is being written about social care, in an attempt to address short and long term problems. How might this way be a good/bad thing for carers? What do you think should be discussed in the green paper?

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