Authored article

Recognising and understanding carers' rights

David Mowat, Community Health and Care Minister, writes about raising awareness of caring and support for carers on Carers' Rights Day.

David Mowat

Today is Carers’ Rights Day, when thousands of organisations across the country help carers to find out about and understand their rights and what support they can access. The event is led by Carers UK and supported by carers’ charities and organisations, big and small.

Carers make an enormous contribution to our health and care system and to our society, and the selfless way that millions of carers provide care and support of all kinds to their friends and relatives deserves special appreciation. Since the implementation of the Care Act in 2015, carers have more rights than ever before. The Act gave carers parity with the people they care for through new entitlements to an assessment of their needs, support to meet their eligible needs, and information and advice. We know there is much to do to embed good practice and raise awareness of carers’ rights, and make sure carers know where to go for help and feel able to ask for it. That is what Carers’ Rights Day is all about.

However, there has also been great progress since the Act and we can continue to be positive about its potential for carers. We will be looking at how to consolidate and spread best practice as part of the forthcoming carers’ strategy, which is being developed now. The new strategy for carers will also look beyond what statutory services can do, to a vision of a more carer-friendly society where carers are supported in all kinds of settings to care well whilst maintaining a life of their own.

Carers Rights Day is a great opportunity to recognise all that carers do: throughout the country there will be people holding events in their communities and workplaces to raise awareness of caring and rights for carers. Earlier this week, at a reception held by Carers UK, I heard about the great work that many organisations are already doing across the country to support carers. There is so much going on that we can build on.

Today, for example, sees the launch of Aviva UK’s WeCare pilot in Bristol to support carers in the workplace. Working with the Department of Work and Pensions, the Department of Health, the Positive Ageing Company (part of Mercer Consulting), Age UK and the Carers UK’s business forum Employers for Carers, Aviva has designed a plan of new measures to support carers in its workforce, including:

  • carers’ leave
  • line manager training
  • online information resources to support carers at work
  • access to a digital health, wellbeing and eldercare platform to support employees and their families

We know that many people who are caring struggle to balance the demands of their caring role with work, and new research shows that it takes just 10 hours of caring per week to make it a real challenge for people to stay in employment whilst caring for a loved one. This initiative from Aviva highlights a growing awareness among employers, large and small, that it is everyone’s responsibility to support carers. It is in employers’ interests – as well as employees’ – to have an open dialogue about the increasing numbers of us who are caring for our friends and relatives, support carers however possible, retain staff and have a happier workforce as a result.

I would encourage everyone to think this Carers Rights Day about a carer they might know, and what they can do to support them, be it personally or in the workplace or wider community. You can find out more about Carers’ Rights Day and rights for carers on the Carers UK website, and more about how to be a carer-friendly employer on the Employers for Carers website.

Published 25 November 2016