Scotland's carers make a huge contribution to the people they care for and our communities, but caring can impact on carers' own wellbeing. We are committed to aligning policy to support and listen to carers.
The Carers Strategic Policy Statement (CSPS) is intended to assist local and national strategic planning and policy development to achieve that. It maps the national policies and approaches in place to support unpaid carers in Scotland. People in the public, independent and third sectors whose work affects carers can use it to make informed decisions, build connections and tap into existing opportunities.
The aim is to maximise benefit from our policies by connecting them and building a better understanding of the system as a whole. Our policies include two major reforms for carers which are key priorities for us – effective implementation of the Carers (Scotland) Act and the ongoing development of Carer's Assistance through our new Social Security powers.
The CSPS sets out a common vision and overarching principles to guide all of these connected policies.
Carers are recognised and valued as equal partners in care and involved in decision making relating to their caring role. Carers are supported on a consistent basis to allow them to continue caring, if that is their wish, in good health and wellbeing, allowing for a life of their own outside of caring.
Young carers are enabled to be children and young people first and foremost and relieved of any inappropriate caring roles, while being involved in decisions relating to their caring role.
We live in carer-friendly communities, where carers' needs are understood, and they are not excluded or discriminated against by virtue of their caring role.
- Prioritise preventative support to help prevent problems developing.
- Enable choice and control so that support can be personalised.
Responsibility for delivering policies to support carers is shared with partners, across the statutory and third sector. Close collaboration and partnership working, with the same overall vision, outcomes and approach in mind, is vital to ensure carers receive the support they rightly deserve. The CSPS is intended to support this ambition.
The CSPS seeks to put the individual carer in the centre. It outlines what we understand about carers in Scotland (Chapter 1) and then highlights policies and approaches which affect key aspects of carers' lives:
- Carer voice and engagement (Chapter 2)
- Health and social care support (Chapter 3)
- Social and financial inclusion (Chapter 4)
Most of these policies and approaches are relevant to carers of all ages. Policies and approaches specific to young carers are set out in a separate chapter (Chapter 5).
Each chapter sets out the overall aim ("strategic outcome") we are working towards for carers and outlines key policies and strategies in place to try and achieve that. These policies and strategies have either been designed with carers in mind or are particularly relevant for carers. Carers are not a homogenous group so certain policies will be more relevant for some people than for others.
Carers in Scotland (Chapter 1)
Diagram 1: Carers in Scotland
Carer Voice and Engagement (Chapter 2)
Strategic outcome - Carers voices are heard and their views and experiences are taken into account in decisions which affect them.
Those responsible for planning support or services and developing policy need to learn from carers' experiences and knowledge to ensure that systems can be fit for purpose at a national and local level. We support a variety of national forums and opportunities for carers to engage and have their voices heard, including:
- Events, such as the Carers Parliament and the Scottish Young Carers Festival
- Funding third sector partners to engage with and provide a voice for carers
- Engagement with carers on national policy development such as through the Social Security Experience Panels
- Legislation to ensure carers are involved in local strategic decision making
At an individual level, genuine communication is key to enabling choice. Professionals need to understand and value carers' skills and insights to ensure that support for both them and the cared-for person is as good as it can be. This is reflected in:
- National Care Standards
- Legislation requiring carer involvement in individual decisions about the carer and the person they care for
We want to ensure professionals and carers have the skills and resources they need to work together as equal partners in care. Effective collaboration involves empowering carers with information about the types of support available and choices over how it is delivered and ensuring that professionals and carers understand carers' rights to be involved in decisions about support for them and the person they care for. This is reflected in:
- The Carers' Charter
- A range of awareness raising work with partners to implement the Carers Act
Health and Social Care Support (Chapter 3)
Strategic outcome: People who provide unpaid care are supported to look after their own health and wellbeing, including to reduce any negative impact of their caring role on their own health and wellbeing (National Health and Wellbeing Outcome 6).
Our key priority is to embed carers' rights to support under the Carers Act. The Act aims to ensure carers have choice and control and can access preventative support to protect their wellbeing and keep caring situations manageable.
Ongoing implementation priorities and actions for the Act are set out in an implementation plan, with oversight from a cross sectoral implementation steering group.
Personalised, flexible short breaks can make a real difference for carers to recharge their batteries - helping sustain caring relationships and enabling carers to have more of a life of their own. The vital importance of high quality breaks is recognised in
- The requirement to consider short breaks under the Carers Act
- Funding for the voluntary-sector Short Breaks Fund and Respitality.
The guiding principles of personalisation and prevention will help deliver the best outcomes for individuals and the system as a whole. These principles are at the core of self-directed support as Scotland's approach to statutory social care support. They and the Carers Act itself are also key elements of our wider work to reform adult social care to design a system fit for the future. Part of that reform work will also explore issues of charging for social care, which are often a key concern for carers.
Certain aspects of our wider health priorities are particularly important to carers:
- Our approaches to person-centred hospital visiting and to involving carers in hospital discharge will be important when the person they care for is in hospital
- Our vision for the future of primary care will benefit carers who work with and rely on multi-disciplinary teams within primary care services to support the people they care for on a day to day basis.
Our housing policies are also important. We recognise that living in the right home with the right advice and support can be the key to enabling people to live safely and independently at home. If the home of the cared-for person is suited to their needs this can make caring for them easier. This is reflected in a range of housing policies including The Technology Enabled Care Housing Charter and the refreshed housing strategy for older people.
Alongside these general policy approaches to health, social care and housing support for carers and the people they care for, our policies and strategies for supporting those with particular conditions also recognise the key role of carers. These include:
- A range of policies and programmes about support for disabled children and their families
- National Dementia Strategy
- Scottish Strategy for Autism
- Keys to Life Learning Disability Strategy
- National Action Plan on Neurological Conditions
- Rights, Respect and Recovery strategy – for families affected by substance misuse
- A range of policies and programmes about mental health support
Social and Financial Inclusion (Chapter 4)
- Carers access the financial support and assistance they are entitled to.
- Carers are able to take up or maintain meaningful employment alongside caring.
- Carers can participate in and are valued by their community and wider society.
Caring often brings financial impacts. Intensive levels of caring are most common in the most deprived areas. Social isolation is also a particular risk for carers. Some people give up work or reduce their hours to care, often with negative consequences in terms of financial wellbeing and social isolation.
Increasing the income of carers helps to address economic inequality as well as recognising the contribution carers make to society. Continuing implementation of our commitments to reform social security support for carers is therefore a key priority. Our new Social Security powers provide us with tools to support carers by providing them with financial support in recognition of the extra costs associated with significant caring responsibilities. This, in turn, links to the increased ability for carers to actively participate within their own communities.
In designing our newly devolved Social Security benefits, we have considered the needs of carers by drawing from their advice and lived-experience and will continue to do so with future developments and commitments.
Supporting carers to stay in or enter work also brings vital benefits to carers, employers and the economy. Although employment law is reserved to the UK Government, we are using the levers at our disposal to raise awareness amongst employers and support carers in Scotland to access and balance work and caring where possible.
A range of Scottish Government policies aim to achieve this. Some of these, like the Carer Positive accreditation scheme, are specific to carers. Many are part of the wider fair work agenda but will have particular importance for carers. Our aim is to support people into work by ensuring the employability offer in Scotland is person-centred, flexible and responsive to the needs of individuals and employers. We believe this is critical to help people access fair work and help them achieve their potential in an inclusive and fair economy.
Alongside social security and employment we want to tackle social isolation and build more carer friendly communities.
Carer friendly communities are places that reach out to support carers wherever they can by understanding caring, understanding disability and illness, and doing things differently.
And because of the risks of social isolation among carers, we are working in several ways to remove barriers to participation in training, education and employment opportunities as well as social and leisure activities. We are also implementing a transport plan which focuses on improving the door to door journeys for people with disabilities and removing the barriers which prevent them from doing so. For carers, this will assist in addressing social isolation of the people that they care for.
Young Carers (Chapter 5)
Strategic outcome: Young carers are supported; and protected from inappropriate caring and negative impacts on their education, social lives and future development.
We are clear that, for our young people, caring should not be a barrier to education, social and leisure opportunities, or accessing education or employment.
Many of the rights, policies and opportunities mentioned above are available to all carers irrespective of age, but there are often additional considerations within policy and legislation for young carers. This chapter looks at policies specifically designed for, and available only to, young carers. These policies all contribute towards the key themes of carer voice and engagement, health and social care support and financial and social inclusion.
We recognise that young carers should be treated as young people first and foremost. As such, our policies to support young carers are designed and delivered with the principles and values embedded in the Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) approach at the forefront. This means that all those who have a role in supporting our young people with caring responsibilities should identify and support them as young carers, along with any other need they may have.
Young carers have the same legal rights as adult carers to be involved in individual and strategic level decisions which affect them. We also support specific national level opportunities for young carers to engage and have their voices heard, including the Scottish Young Carers Festival and the social security Young Carer Experience Panel.
In terms of health and social care, every young carer has the right to a Young Carer Statement under the Carers Act and schools also play a key role in identifying and supporting many young carers. It is important to ensure a joined up approach with other, wider support for young people. Young carer rights under the Carers Act are intended to work alongside provisions such as additional support for learning and the Child's Plan, all under the GIRFEC approach.
Much of the support for young carers is designed to allow them the chance to have the same opportunities as their non-carer peers. The new Young Carer Grant, the Young Scot package for young carers and forthcoming free bus travel will give them more opportunity to participate fully in society.
It is important that our young adults with caring responsibilities receive support when they come to make decisions about their future, including at a time of transition from school to their next positive destination. We want to ensure that they do not drop off the radar of services and that awareness of and support for their caring role is maintained once they have left school. We support a range of policies to ensure young carers can make successful transitions to further and higher education and into employment.
The CSPS sets out the Scottish Government's policies and approaches to support unpaid carers, including our key priorities around the Carers Act and reform of carers' social security support. It puts forward a vision, high level outcomes and common principles to tie these policies together. All this is designed to assist local and national strategic planning and policy development so that it is well informed, connected and focused on common aims – so that carers are better listened to and supported.