The results (which I was asked not to publish) were worrying. In almost all areas carers who took part indicated that they were worse off, or saw services as being poorer.
What came out strongly to me that the three key areas of health, financial support and respite care, were all deemed as being poorer, according to the carers who took part.
I proposed a review at the June scrutiny committee meeting but chair, Sara Randall Johnson suggested a meeting with Devon Carers staff first, at the Westbank League of Friends. Devon Carers is commissioned to provide support for carers in the Devon County Council area.
This was a useful meeting. What emerged for me, among other issues, was that under the Care Act 2014, the bar has been raised by the government for both financial support and for respite care so it is now harder to access. I am quite certain that this is partly the reason that carers are finding things tougher.
I asked for a further agenda item for the September Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee meeting. I invited two carers who had asked for my help – Maureen Phillips and Mary Hyland, who gave powerful and moving presentations of their experiences of caring. Maureen, for her father and Mary for her partner.
Mary said there is no respite care available. And that overnight she became a carer, she was thrown into it, she knew nothing about it and had to give up her job. She has no support and finds it hard to even leave the house. Previously, she was a very outgoing person, even having her own programme on BBC Radio Devon. She said she was there on behalf of all local carers. Everyone is finding things hard.
The committee was silent.
Maureen said she had been the carer to her father for eight years. Life is exhausting, demanding, frustrating and isolating, she said. Maureen said specialist support workers are required. She said both she and her father need emotional support. She asked who she should turn to when things get tough. There is a shortage of care workers. In the last eight years she had one holiday. She had to take her father with her. Maureen said she had to fight for every bit of support. She has turned to the services of a solicitor in desperation.
When I made the proposal for a spotlight review at the September meeting, it was seconded by the chair and agreed by the committee. I hope to have a date for the first meeting soon.
Here’s the webcast: You can see Mary’s and Maureen’s presentation under public participation – https://devoncc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/359701
The agenda item itself is under number 12.
Pic: Maureen Phillips presenting to Devon County Council’s Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee.