I am grateful to take the opportunity during carers week to thank all those who provide care for their loved ones and to recognise the invaluable contribution that they make to our communities.
It is vital that appropriate support is available and accessible, which is why our recent national carers strategy is driving long-term change to improve support for our unpaid carers. We are investing £88 million per year in local carers support and £8 million in short breaks for those in the voluntary sector. We are also legislating to establish a right to breaks from caring as part of the National Care Service (Scotland) Bill.
Our carers allowance supplement provides around £540 of additional support per year for carers and is only available in Scotland, and our new carers support payment, which will replace carers allowance, will begin roll-out at the end of this year.
Carers hold up our society at great personal cost. Oxfam, along with another 63 organisations, is calling for a dedicated new national outcome to fully value and invest in all those who experience or provide care, and for a robust set of national indicators to track progress. Will the First Minister carefully consider the ask to “Make care count”?
I will. Forgive me—I have not seen that particular request from Oxfam and the other organisations, but I will look at that straight after First Minister’s questions and will give careful consideration to the ask to “Make care count.”
As I should have done in response to her first question, I thank Karen Adam, who has lived experience and who speaks very powerfully about caring responsibilities. We know that unpaid carers provide invaluable care for their loved ones, family and friends, that they save the national health service and social care services a lot of money and that the Government would otherwise have to pay for those care costs.
We are committed to doing everything that we can do to value our carers, not only with warm words and rhetoric, which can often be the easy bit, but by ensuring that we support them financially and with the right to breaks. I reiterate our commitment to doing all that we can do to ensure that carers can access the support that they need.
The national performance framework is Scotland’s wellbeing framework and it sets out the kind of country that we all want. A statutory review of national outcomes is on-going and the proposal for a new national outcome on care will absolutely be considered as a part of that.
In Parliament yesterday,
MSPs from across the parties heard from unpaid carers just how challenging their roles can be. Many have no access to respite at all and some even compromise their own health and wellbeing and forgo medical appointments to provide that care. One of my constituents has talked about how she has had to not go for dental treatment, despite being in pain and discomfort, because it would take too much time away from her caring responsibilities.
I say to the First Minister that those insights are not new: carers tell us again and again about the challenges that they face. Although the Government backed the Feeley review recommendations in 2021, we have not had the reforms that are so sorely needed. Will the First Minister confirm today that the Government still supports the Feeley recommendations? If it does, when will he instruct the scrapping of non-residential care charges?
We support the Feeley review. I will come back to non-residential care charges in a moment, but I give Paul Sweeney and carers who are listening to and watching this exchange the absolute assurance that we are committed to doing everything that we can do to ensure that those with caring responsibilities know what support exists for them and for which they are eligible.
We provided £8 million for voluntary sector short breaks in 2022-23, which represented an increase of £5 million, and we are maintaining that funding at £8 million this year. We are also providing £560,000 in this financial year for local carer centres. Many of us have local carer centres in our constituencies and we know what incredible and valuable support they provide. I referenced in my response to Karen Adam that we are legislating to establish a right to breaks from caring through the National Care Service (Scotland) Bill. I hope to have Paul Sweeney’s support in that regard.
In relation to non-residential charges, we are absolutely committed to removing charges for all non-residential social care within this session of Parliament. That was absolutely our commitment.
I will comment on the Feeley review in particular, because Paul Sweeney mentioned it. It recommended that further work be undertaken to understand the impact on demand resulting from removal of charges. We are currently undertaking that work with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the local authorities. We will, of course, consider the value for money of various options based on that work, particularly in the current challenging financial environment.
Our commitment to removing charges for all non-residential social care within this session of Parliament absolutely exists: we will do that as soon as possible.