My Lords, I wish to speak to Amendment 89B as well as Amendment 89A, as they are both amendments about the circumstances in which a carer can be charged for services. Carers UK—I declare an interest as its vice-president—has estimated that carers save the UK economy £119 billion per year. That is a statistic that I never tire of giving your Lordships. Local authorities recognise the value and cost-effectiveness of supporting carers. As a result, very few local authorities charge for services provided to carers. The Government’s impact assessment for the Bill sets out current evidence on the cost-effectiveness of supporting carers, and refers to the benefits received from doing so: for example, preventing or delaying hospital or residential care admissions; sustaining the caring role; improving the health and well-being of carers; and, crucially, assisting carers to remain in or return to work.
The Bill includes a power to charge carers for services, and a power to charge for arranging services for carers. Given the benefits of providing support for carers, I shall argue that it would be counterproductive to charge carers and thereby reduce the take-up of support.
The current legislation under which support is provided is the Carers and Disabled Children Act 2000, which started as a Private Member’s Bill. Under the Act, services provided to a disabled person in order to meet the needs of the carer cannot include services for the disabled person that are “of an intimate nature”. It is for that reason that that same wording is used in Amendment 89A.
Interpretation varies concerning to whom, and by whom, services are provided, but the definition legally prevents carers being charged for a respite care service that includes personal care provided to the person whom the carer cares for. As I have said, very few local authorities now charge for carers services. However, given the difficulties with local authority funding, about which we hear constantly, I am concerned that more local authorities may consider charging carers in the future.
Following a recommendation by the Joint Committee scrutinising the draft Care Bill—on which I, together with several other Members of your Lordships’ House, served—the Government have sought to protect carers from being wrongly charged, by introducing the following wording in Clause 14:
“The power to make a charge under subsection (1) for meeting a carer’s needs for support under section 20 by providing care and support to the adult needing care may not be exercised so as to charge the carer”.
Although the intention of this wording is welcome, it does not provide any definition of what is a service for the carer and what is a service for the adult. So it does not prevent local authorities charging carers for services such as replacement care and other things that help them.
It is important that any potential conflict is resolved so that carers and disabled people have clarity about their personal budgets. Independent personal budgets can be useful in relation to managing options and direct payments. Whose budget is this to come out of? It will also be important when the carer count is introduced that we have clarity, so that the disabled person knows whether the cost of care is starting to accrue to their account.
Decision-making on whether services are designed to give carers a break or result in them having a break from caring is very variable at the moment. Some local carers’ services, for example, have experienced variations in approach from their local authority. I cite a particular example in which a local carers’ organisation that provides a sitting service—that is, replacement care, so that carers can take a break—operates with two neighbouring local authorities. One regards replacement care as a service for the cared-for person, including sitting services. The next-door authority allows carers to purchase a sitting service, as long as it does not include intimate care, with their direct payment. Varying interpretations mean that there is a disparity for carers in the same area. Some can access breaks, while some cannot. This creates difficulties for the service provider and for those who want to support carers.
In the current legislation, the Carers and Disabled Children Act 2000, services provided to the disabled person to meet the needs of the carer cannot include services for the disabled person that are of an intimate nature. My Amendment 89A seeks to reproduce that wording in the Bill to probe the distinction made in the Bill between carer services and services for a disabled person and to clarify how the current wording would prevent a carer being charged for respite or replacement care provided to the carer. Without a clearer definition of whose service is whose, negative consequences for the carer will inevitably result. Carers may be prevented from having a break; they may find that they are subject to charges for services that should be allocated to the disabled person; and social workers and others assessors’ time will be taken up in trying to allocate services to people.
I hope that the Minister, who I know to be totally committed to supporting carers, as are the Government, will accept this amendment to clarify the position with regard to charging carers. I beg to move.