A raft of recommendations aimed at helping unpaid carers manage on a day to day basis, were approved by Devon County Council’s Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee.

The committee, which took place last Thursday (12 March), unanimously approved the measures, which were developed following work over a eight month period, from last summer.

The review recommended 12 separate areas for action starting with central government, in a report that will now go before the Cabinet on Wednesday 8 April.

I proposed the review almost two years ago when it became obvious from a carers survey I saw, that satisfaction rates were declining and unpaid carers were finding things increasingly tough.

It took several committee meetings before I could get agreement for the review to take place, which I then chaired from its start last summer.

I wanted it to be a truly thorough and extensive piece of work so that unpaid carers had the confidence we would make some strong and effective recommendations.

We spoke to around 100 carers across Devon, travelling out to all parts of the county, in order to hear what pressures carers were facing.

It was tough hearing the stories. Our hearts went out to people who told us repeatedly that they felt trapped, stressed, were responsible for caring for their loved ones 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Added to this were people who are worried about the future. Stressed about the uncertainty of how they will manage an increasingly frail partner, with a paucity of options available.

Often unpaid carers are unwell themselves, as they neglect their own mental and physical health, with the demands of caring for their husbands or wives, mothers or fathers.

The pressures that austerity has created relating to there being less paid personal care, an ongoing shortage of paid care workers, the closure of many residential homes, including Devon County Council owned homes, has taken its toll.

Paid care is not only hard to find, it is expensive.

Adult social care budgets have been eviscerated under this government and it has also been remiss in not providing a solution to the resulting crisis, where people are at risk of losing their life savings if they need non-NHS care.

It is grossly unfair for people to be means tested for basic care if they have dementia, yet receive care for cancer under the NHS.

Quite clearly, in an evolved democracy and the sixth largest economy in the world, we must provide much better support for our vulnerable citizens.

There must be urgent action from central government on this and new funding needs to be provided to ensure that unpaid carers and those they care for are fairly and adequately provided for.

This is ultimately, where the buck stops.

There are also a raft of more localised recommendations for Devon County Council carers service, as well as Devon’s NHS Clinical Commissioning Group.

The most often cited request, was simply: I need a break. But the only break I get is an hour in Tesco’s once a week.

Many carers told us that they were struggling financially and had trouble claiming the benefits that they were entitled to, despite letters of support from their GP.

There are recommendations for central government on this too.

I thanked Scrutiny Officer, Dan Looker for managing the review – and my cross-party task group colleagues for leaving politics at the door and working effectively as a team to help produce this report.

I asked for a follow-up item in order to keep track of progress, to be scheduled for the September meeting. This was agreed.

The report will now go before the council’s Cabinet, on Wednesday 8 April, which starts at 10.30am.

The full report is here – https://democracy.devon.gov.uk/documents/s30160/04%2003%2020%20Carers%20Spotlight%20Final.pdf

The carers spotlight review was item nine and the discussion can be viewed here – https://devoncc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/455423

Pic: Maureen Phillips, who cares for her father, and came along to last Thursday’s committee, to thank us for the report.