I am proposing an amendment to the Children and Families Bill that will make significant changes to the legislation regarding young carers. This is in line with the commitment made at Commons Report by my colleague the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Children and Families (Mr Edward Timpson) to look at how the legislation for young carers could be improved. This amendment will be considered during the House of Lords Committee stage of the Children and Families Bill.
Improving outcomes for carers is a priority for this government as we said in 2010 when we published ‘Recognised, valued and supported: next steps for the carers strategy’. We are clear that effective whole family approaches to assessment are essential to improving support for adults and young carers alike. My department has been working with voluntary sector partners for several years to encourage local services to adopt ‘whole family’ approaches to supporting young carers and their families. In that time we have funded and shared some excellent good practice examples and delivered numerous workshops and seminars. While we have seen plenty of appetite for working in this way and some changes to the way local services are designed and delivered, change has been slow. Meanwhile, data from the National Census shows us that the number of young carers is rising.
Recent evidence from the Children’s Society’s ‘Hidden from view’ report indicates that young carers are no more likely to be in contact with support agencies than their peers. Carers Trust found that the majority of those that are identified as young carers still don’t get an assessment of their needs or access to the support they and their families need. The consequences can be serious and long lasting. ‘Hidden from view’ also found that young carers achieve on average 9 grades lower than their peers at GCSE which can have consequences for their long term economic prospects and life choices.
It is clear therefore that we need to do more to support young carers. With the Care Bill also under consideration by Parliament, this is an ideal opportunity to ensure that young carers get equal consideration and protection. That is not to say that they should be treated the same as adult carers. We are committed to ensuring that young people are protected from excessive or inappropriate caring responsibilities. The best way to achieve that is to ensure that the person being cared for, whether that is an adult or a child, is assessed and has all their eligible needs met first. To do this effectively requires local services working together across the statutory and voluntary sectors to consider the whole family’s needs. Edward Timpson has worked and will continue to work closely with Norman Lamb, Minister for Care and Support at the Department of Health, to ensure that that our respective pieces of legislation and associated guidance work together to deliver support to the whole family.
Both departments have worked closely with interested parties over the summer, including the Association of Directors of Children’s Services, the Association of Directors of Adult Services, the National Young Carers Coalition, the Local Government Association, practitioners and young carers themselves. Our proposals reflect these discussions. We have also identified key principles to consider in the drafting of regulations and statutory guidance about a whole family approach to assessment of adults under the Care Bill. Draft regulations and guidance will be published for consultation in the spring.
Through this amendment to the Children and Families Bill we believe we have arrived at a solution that will deliver 4 things: it will consolidate and simplify the legislation relating to young carers’ assessments, making rights and duties clearer to both young people and practitioners; the right to an assessment of needs for support will be extended to all young carers under the age of 18 regardless of who they care for, what type of care they provide or how often they provide it; make it clear to local authorities that they must carry out an assessment of a young carer’s needs for support on request or on the appearance of need, and provide the appropriate links between children’s and adults’ legislation to enable local authorities to align the assessment of a young carer with an assessment of an adult they care for.
This amendment will work with provisions in the Care Bill that also support the combining of assessments, and the forthcoming regulations on a whole family approach to assessing and supporting adults. Together they will provide a clear legislative framework that will support local authorities to consider the needs of the whole family, deliver coordinated packages of support and protect children and young people from excessive or inappropriate caring roles.