Scotland's health and social care systems rely heavily on the input of unpaid carers. There were 700,000 – 800,000 unpaid carers before the pandemic, including 30,000 young carers. Latest estimates suggest that there were 839,000 adult carers in September 2020.
Data from the 2011 census and the Scotland's Carers Report (2015) found little difference overall between the proportion of carers who live in the most and least deprived areas.
Unpaid carers living in the most deprived areas are much more likely to be caring for 35 hours a week or more compared to those living in the least deprived areas (47% and 24% respectively). This also applies to young carers (28% and 17% respectively).
Based on records where information on support provided to carers was available; the most common form of support provided to carers was advice and information. Young carers supported by local services were more likely to be provided with short breaks or respite than adult carers.
When carers responding to the Health and Care Experience Survey were asked if they feel supported to continue care, only 30% responded positively.
The NCS Bill proposes a right to breaks from caring that will function as part of the wider social care support system.
Unpaid carers already have rights under the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 to a personalised plan to identify what is important to them and their needs for support. Carers also have the right to support to meet their eligible needs and authorities must consider whether that support should include a break from caring.
Despite the above rights, relatively few unpaid carers (around 3%) receive statutory support for breaks from caring.
The Bill makes changes to the Carers Act to deliver a right to personalised short breaks support for carers who need it. Existing powers can be used for Ministers to maintain a national short breaks fund to enable easy-access support for people in less intensive caring roles.
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