Headlines: November 14th, 2008

Local councils have been told they need to give better support to carers who manage direct payments for care services. The payments go dierectly to disabled and older people and their carers to pay for their own care arrangements but a report from Carers UK says the system has burdened some people with administration and payroll responsibilities.

Carers UK questioned more than 600 people more than half of whom said their overall experience of the payments scheme was positive. Almost three quarters said the care they could now buy themselves was better at meeting their families’ needs than previous provision.

About one in ten, however, were more negative in their responses and pointed to the lack of supoport to help them manage the money. This, they said, added to their stress and to feelings of being overwhelmed. Just over a fifth of carers said their free time had been reduced because of the time needed each week to handle insurance, tax, National Insurance, training and other aspects of employing someone. One respondent summed this up, saying, “Direct payments just gave me more work. I’m doing social services’ job for them. Life is hard enough as it is without added responsibility and work.”

Carers UK said the research showed how the success of direct payments relied heavily on local authorities and their ability to support carers. Its chief executive, Imelda Redmond, said, “For the scheme to truly work, carers need adequate support to ensure direct payments do not simply become an additional administrative burden, on top of the existing ‘workload’ of their caring responsibilities.” She said local authorities had a duty to provide carers with the support needed to ensure that the direct payment scheme was truly a choice and not a chore.