National carers strategy: executive summary

Unpaid care is vital to how social care is provided in Scotland, and the value of the dedication and expertise of carers cannot be overstated. This strategy sets out a range of actions to ensure they are supported fully in a joined up and cohesive way.

1. Living with COVID-19

Strategic outcomes

  • Carers feel confident and supported to protect themselves from COVID-19.
  • Carers and the people they care for feel supported and confident to re-engage with their communities.
  • Carers are supported to recover from the negative impacts of COVID-19.

Why this is important

We know the COVID-19 pandemic had and continues to have a significant effect on unpaid carers. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we created carer-specific information to help carers and carer organisations find the most up-to-date information relevant for them. We worked closely with carers and carer organisations to ensure that the information met carers needs and was also circulated through channels they were likely to use. We worked with NHS 24 to develop tailored information on NHS inform for people with ongoing symptoms following COVID-19, which includes signposting to guidance and support for unpaid carers. Unpaid carers were prioritised for vaccination in line with advice from the Joint Committee of Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

The pandemic enforced lockdowns and associated restrictions which presented a series of unfolding challenges for carers. Each caring situation is unique so everyone faced different situations, but we know that carers faced particular issues in caring safely and sustaining caring roles.

Many carers were supporting people who were advised to shield because they were considered to be at highest risk of becoming severely ill if they caught COVID-19. Supporting people on the Highest Risk List involved asking this group and those around them to take many extra precautions to limit the chance of catching and transmitting COVID-19. For many carers, this increased the existing stress, fear and isolation of living under lockdown and ongoing restrictions.

The majority of pandemic-related precautions have been lifted, but we have heard from some carers that they have felt vulnerable, left behind and ignored as communities, workplaces and wider society open up again. We will continue to work with carers to address their concerns and ensure they are supported to keep safe while they re-engage in their wider communities.

We recognise that some carers will be providing support to friends and family members living with long-term effects following contracting COVID-19, known as long COVID. These effects vary in their presentation and nature from person to person, and can have a significant impact for those adults and children most severely affected.

The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately affected different equality groups. The majority of carers are women and were at greater risk of these disproportionate effects. Some minority ethnic groups were particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and often less connected to support services. The pandemic increased the risk of trauma for many people across Scotland, particularly for those already affected by inequality, trauma and adversity. Research shows that experience of trauma can impact on people's mental and physical health outcomes if left unsupported.

As we move into the new phase of living with COVID-19, some carers need support to rebuild confidence and feel safe to re-engage with wider communities and services. Communication with carers is a key element of that, but there are also practical measures to share the latest guidance and expertise.

We remain committed to recognising the immense contribution carers make, increasing public awareness of caring and involving carers to ensure that our policies are informed by their lived and living experience. The following chapters set out actions to support this commitment.

"During the pandemic, the Carers Centre {CWD} provided an invaluable support whether it was an ear to listen or how to access masks, cleanser, gloves or lateral flow tests. Nothing was a problem! I cannot emphasize how helpful all concerned were. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those people that made this possible. Thanks again."

How we will achieve this

1. Ministers and officials will continue to engage with carers to ensure their voices are heard, including ongoing support for those whose risk may still be higher.

2. We will continue to ensure that carers receive accurate and up-to-date information about living with COVID-19.

3. We will continue to closely monitor all emerging evidence on COVID-19 treatments and their clinical effectiveness.

4. Unpaid carers will continue to be able access free PPE until March 2023. The provision of PPE beyond this is under review.

5. We will continue to meet carers and carer organisations regularly to hear current concerns so we can provide up-to-date information. This includes funding and engaging with MECOPP (Minority Ethnic Carers of People Project) to ensure information meets the needs of carers with one or more protected characteristic.

6. We will encourage employers to be more supportive and flexible to support unpaid carers, through our Carer Positive scheme, which may include ensuring that sick pay and staffing practices support public health aims, adapting premises to make them safer for customers and staff, and enabling hybrid working where that makes sense.

7. We will take measures to ensure our public buildings and businesses are as safe as they can be.

8. We will encourage shops and other public spaces to display 'Distance Aware' signage about personal distance.

9. We will work with partners to raise awareness and increase the uptake of emergency and future care plans.

10. We will work to improve carer recognition, health and social care support, and financial and social inclusion for carers, through the actions set out in the following chapters.

11. We provided £21 million funding in 2021-22 and have committed £15 million funding in 2022-23 for community-based initiatives to promote good health and wellbeing and tackle the mental health issues made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic and the cost of living crisis (the Communities Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund).

12. As we develop Scottish Carer's Assistance, we are considering the best way to support carers to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and future proof our benefits system to ensure there is flexibility to respond to changing circumstances.

"My daughter has long COVID – she is completely dependent on us to meet her needs. We are in our eighties – we weren't expecting this – it's so hard and we are exhausted, the services are doing all they can but she really needs round the clock care."



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