After two years work, today a piece of work that has been close to my heart has been published.

Devon County Council’s Health and Adult Care scrutiny review on unpaid carers, has recommended 12 separate areas for action, starting with central government, in a paper that will go before its committee on Thursday 12 March.

I proposed the review almost two years ago when it became obvious from a carers survey I saw, that satisfaction rates are 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 am confident (hopeful!) that our recommendations address the most pressing issues that were raised with us and that we have been assertive and frank in our recommendations.

I’d like to thank scrutiny officer, Dan Looker, for managing the review. And I’d also like to thank my task group colleagues for leaving politics at the door and working effectively as a team to help produce this report.

Councillors will be asked to vote to approve the report at the next Health and Adult Care Scrutiny meeting on next Thursday (12 March).  The meeting starts at 2.15pm.

There is an option for public speaking but you will need to register four working days in advance with Gerry Rufolo – Gerry.rufolo@devon.gov.uk

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

The meeting’s webcast will be available here – https://devoncc.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/455423

Pic: Devon County Council’s Health and Adult Care Scrutiny Committee.