Carer involvement and the Carers (Scotland) Act
The Standards do not replace or remove the need for services to comply with existing legislation. Health and social care services will continue to follow the existing legislation and best practice for their service or sector, in addition to applying the Standards.
The Carers (Scotland) Act became law in Scotland on 1 April 2018. This Act extends and enhances the rights of carers to support. The Act also strengthens the principle of carer involvement in the development and delivery of services by amending existing legislation and adding to it. Carer involvement is set out in several parts of the Act:
- Carers must be involved in strategic planning of carer services in their local area
- Carers must be involved in their own assessment and support planning
- Carers must be involved before the cared-for person is discharged from hospital
- The views of carers and carer representatives must be considered by local authorities when preparing and reviewing short breaks services statements
- Carers must be involved in assessing the needs of the person they look after, and in decisions about whether and how to provide services to them. This aspect of carer involvement is key when thinking about how the Standards apply to carers.
Why is carer involvement important?
Carer involvement is important as carers have a unique role in the life of the person they care for. They also have essential knowledge to contribute to the planning and delivery of care and services for that person. The involvement of the carer in the assessment and support of the cared for person, such as when someone leaves hospital, ensures that their knowledge and experience as a carer is properly valued.
Equal partners in care means that providers of health and social care services should listen to and involve carers in the planning and decision-making processes, as well as involving the person they care for. This creates an environment of mutual respect, as any decision made will have an impact on their caring role.
Carer involvement in service planning and delivery is not a new idea but there has been some variation in how different services have involved carers. The benefit of seeing carers as equal partners in care was recognised in Scotland's Carers Strategy 2010-2015, providing opportunities for services to recognise the role of carers and how the cared-for person's service experience could also be improved by involving carers in planning these services. The Health and Social Care Standards are a way to ensure that carer involvement is at the heart of high quality care and support services.
There are several resources aimed at health and social care professionals to ensure they are knowledgeable about carer involvement processes and are aware of the benefits of carers being equal partners in care:
EPiC (Equal Partners in Care) is a national framework developed by NHS Education for Scotland and Scottish Social Services Council. This is supported by a learning and development toolkit for the health and social care workforce
Best Practice Standards for Carer Engagement have been developed by the Coalition of Carers in Scotland ( COCIS) to help planners and commissioners of services improve their practice. The standards were developed jointly with carers and carer organisations, with support from the Scottish Government's carer policy unit and the Scottish Health Council.
The National Standards for Community Engagement are good-practice principles designed to support and inform the process of community engagement, and improve what happens as a result. They have been used to support community engagement, and user involvement, in Scotland in areas such as community planning and health and social care.
Carers may also play a role in representing the person they look after in relation to the care services they experience.
Advocacy for unpaid carers is important to ensure they can represent their own views and the views of the person they look after effectively. Working with health and social care professionals can be challenging if there are conflicting viewpoints or if the situation is stressful, and advocacy can be very useful for carers who need support to express their views, or those of the person they care for.
Information and advice about advocacy for carers must be included as part of each local authority's information and advice service for carers.
Carers Scotland has developed a Self-Advocacy
Toolkit – a group of integrated resources to help carers get
their voices heard:
The Scottish Government has published Guidance for Unpaid Carer Advocacy in Scotland: www.gov.scot/Publications/2016/03/5362