My Lords, NHS England assures clinical commissioning groups’ plans to support and challenge them to meet the needs of their populations. This includes considering supporting carers, who are a hugely valuable asset for local communities. NHS England has published a commitment to carers action plan. It will review the delivery of these commitments through feedback from carers and carers’ organisations and through progress towards the relevant outcomes indicators and mandate objectives.
I thank the Minister for his response. At the start of national Carers Week, it is right for the whole House to pay tribute to our 1.5 million carers and the vital support that they provide in caring for their partners, friends or a family member. What is the Minister’s response to a recent Carers UK survey, which found that while GPs have implemented systems to identify those undertaking carers’ responsibilities, few are actually doing anything differently to accommodate them—for example, giving regular health checks or changing appointment systems to support getting somebody to the surgery who is in a wheelchair or caring for somebody with dementia? Does the Minister agree that the appointment of carers leads under CCG implementation plans is a key step in bringing about the major push that is needed to get GPs to up their game? How will the Government ensure that that happens?
My Lords, I fully endorse the comments of the noble Baroness about the importance of carers. They play a crucial role as partners in care for the well-being of those they look after. I saw that report and of course it is important that GPs are aware of their role in supporting carers. We set out our vision for this in a document we published, Transforming Primary Care. That recognises the importance of involving and supporting carers. It sets out an expectation for GPs to identify carers as a matter of course. As I said in my original Answer, CCG plans will be assured by NHS England, including the important element of carers’ support and recognition.
My Lords, is the Minister aware that, at last, carers who work by going from one person to another will be paid for their travel time? I have drawn attention in this House before to the fact that people who were self-employed under such care systems were earning £2-something an hour. Does the Minister agree that that will be a great benefit to both the clients and, in particular, the carers who rely on that income?
I do agree with my noble friend, but I would point out to her that the thrust of the noble Baroness’s Question is about unpaid carers, of whom there are 5.4 million in this country, 1.4 million of whom work more than 50 hours a week as unpaid carers. It is to support those people that the attention of NHS England is being rightly directed.
I thank the Minister for pointing that out and saving me having to do so. We are talking about so-called informal, unpaid carers in this Question. My noble friend’s Question has underlined how much progress is still to be made in bringing the needs of carers to the attention of local CCGs and health professionals. Will future versions of the carers strategy action plan address that issue?
My Lords, yes. The action plan will of course be reviewed, as it needs to be, at regular intervals. I am sure that the noble Baroness will know that the action plan needs to be informed by the various legislative changes that we have recently made through both the Care Act and the Children and Families Act, both of which immeasurably strengthen the rights of carers and what they can expect from the system.
My Lords, given that the Francis report said that it was important that carers be involved and informed about the care of their family member but one study found that only one-third of those surveyed were told how to care for their relative or how to cope with dementia, what are the Government doing to make that a real priority for CCGs?
My noble friend makes a crucial point. In the document Transforming Primary Care, we included a clear expectation for GPs to work with wider health and care professionals to involve people using services and their carers to identify and plan for a person’s needs in the round. The plan sets out a clear expectation for GPs to identify as a matter of course whether a person is themselves a carer for another person, whether they have a carer or carers and to understand fully the contribution that carers make.
My Lords, the census revealed a substantial increase in young carers, some of whom may not even recognise the term but are simply doing what is expected in their family. Does the Minister agree that CCGs should consult and connect with schools to ensure that those noble but often vulnerable young adults get the support they deserve?
I fully agree with the right reverend Prelate. The Government’s carers strategy sends out a strong message that education, health and young carer services should work together with families better to identify and support young carers, to prevent them taking on harmful caring roles. Young carers’ education, development or employment opportunities should not be diminished because of their caring role, and the right reverend Prelate may like to note that one of the initiatives recently put in train has been to recruit school nurses who are reaching out to schools to ensure that young carers’ needs are recognised in schools.