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* 1. Consultation preamble. 

Mervyn Storey MLA is sponsoring a Carers’ Act Private Member’s Bill proposal on behalf of the newly formed All-Party Group on Carers. The proposal sets out to ensure that the rights of Carers in Northern Ireland are on a level footing with those in England, Scotland and Wales.

Recent research from the NI Assembly Research and Information service shows that Northern Ireland is lagging behind the other jurisdictions of the UK in terms of both a strategy for carers and recent law development. Caring for Carers (2006) is the most recent NI strategy, whereas strategies have been published in Scotland in 2010, in Wales in 2013, and in England in 2014. The most recent legislation in NI was the Carers and Direct Payments Act (NI) 2002, whereas legislation has recently been updated across the UK - The Care Act 2014 and Children and Families Act 2014 in England; the Social Services & Well-being (Wales) Act 2014; and the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016.

A key benefit of the Care Act 2014 is that it places a duty on local authorities to provide the services required, provided the carer meets the national eligibility criteria. In NI the HSC Trusts retain discretion to decide whether or not to provide a service to meet a need identified in a carer’s assessment. The Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 commenced on the 1st April 2018. It introduced a stronger focus on young carers than is apparent in current NI law and policy. The Scotland Act 2016 also provided for the devolution of Carer’s Allowance to Scotland.

The Social Services & Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 provides a wide-ranging single Act bringing together the duties and functions of local authorities with the aim of improving the ‘well-being’ of all people who need care and support, and carers who need support.

All of these legislative changes in other jurisdictions have removed the previous requirements for Carers Assessments to be offered to those providing “regular and substantial care”. This requirement still exists in the NI legislation.

The Carers and Direct Payments Act (Northern Ireland) 2002 and the Caring for Carers Strategy (2006) are the two key documents in Northern Ireland relating to the rights of Carers and in the years since these were drafted, there have been many reports and initiatives that have yet to be acted upon. These include, but are not limited to, the Bengoa Report (2016); The Human Rights of Carers in Northern Ireland (2015); Power to the People (2017) and Delivering Together (2020).

A Carer’s assessment is a way of identifying the needs of a Carer. It looks at the role of a Carer: how being a Carer affects them, how much caring they can realistically do (while still being involved in other activities outside of caring), and any help Carers may need.

The 2011 Census data suggests there are around 214,000 Carers in NI. Recent data from Carers UK suggests there may be as many as 272,500 carers here plus many more who do not see themselves as carers. The Covid-19 pandemic may have substantially increased the numbers of Carers.

Mr Storey proposes to update the existing legislation by introducing:

a statutory duty on Health and Social Care Trusts to identify carers;
a statutory duty on Trusts to provide assessments to all Carers who wish to avail of one.
and a statutory duty on Trusts to deliver on action plans resulting from those Carer assessments.

This consultation aims to gauge support for these proposals and to establish if any other rights are important to Northern Ireland’s growing workforce of Carers. Mr Storey is also keen to hear from Carers, organisations working with and for Carers and anyone else with an opinion on how to deliver such improved rights.

When you comment, try in particular to share alternatives or adjustments to the proposal which would make you more supportive of it.

The closing date for this survey is 7th March

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* 2. Main Proposals - statutory duties

Do carers suffer financially, physically and emotionally as a result of their caring responsibilities?

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* 3. Do you believe that the position of Northern Ireland’s carers could and should be improved by legislation?

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* 4. Given the difference in legislation across the jurisdictions as outlined above, do you believe carers in Northern Ireland should receive the same entitlements as those in other UK jurisdictions / Do you believe it is acceptable that carers in Northern Ireland do not have the same entitlements as those in other UK jurisdictions?

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* 5. Are you a carer?

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* 6. Has your Health and Social Care Trust identified you as a carer?

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* 7. Has your Health and Social Care Trust offered you a carer’s assessment?

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* 8. If so, has an action plan to support you been delivered according to the assessment?

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* 9. How helpful has this been in supporting you integrate caring with your other responsibilities, interests and your general wellbeing? 1-10 – 1= unhelpful; 10 - marvellous

0 10
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i We adjusted the number you entered based on the slider’s scale.

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* 10. Should carers in Northern Ireland have a statutory right to be identified as a carer?

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* 11. Should carers in Northern Ireland have a statutory right to a carer’s assessment?

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* 12. Should carers in Northern Ireland have a statutory right to delivery of their post-assessment action plan?

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* 13. Should Health and Social Care Trusts have a duty to monitor and report to the Department of Health/Assembly on the number and extent of delivery on carer assessments annually?

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* 14. Should Health and Social Care Trusts have a duty to monitor and report to the Department of Health/Assembly on the unmet need that has arisen as a result of not being able to deliver on the action plan from a Carers Assessment? 

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* 15. Young carers

Young carers are children and young people  who are caring for a family member. Their ages range from 8-18 years and 18-25 years. Children adversely affected by caring responsibilities are recognised as children in need under the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995.

Should the Department of Education and other educational bodies proactively seek to identify young carers?

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* 16. Should there be a statutory duty on educational bodies to support young and student carers?

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* 17. Should Health and Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland have a statutory duty to assess the needs of young and young adult carers? Young carers are regarded as being a Child in Need under the NI Children order 1995 and therefore there should be a statutory obligation to assess.

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* 18. Should young carers be able to receive carer’s allowance at age 16 instead of age 18?

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* 19. Would a Young Carer's Grant be a useful alternative to carer’s allowance for young people? What would be different about this?

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* 20. Should young carers be supported by their education provider so their studies are not impeded by their caring role?

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* 21. What provision would you recommend to improve support for young carers?

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* 22. Other measures

What new measures could be introduced to ensure more carers can access financial support?

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* 23. Should other mechanisms be used to support carers – such as raising the level of Carer’s Allowance or making it easier to claim?

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* 24. Your experience as a carer

What effect has caring had on you?

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* 25. In your experience, have the lives of carers improved in the last 10 years? (Worse, Same, Better)

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* 26. Please describe the difficulties you have had to overcome as a carer.

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* 27. Please describe the impact of covid-19 lockdown on your ability to integrate caring with your other responsibilities, interests and your general wellbeing.

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* 28. Your Alternative View

If you do NOT agree with the bill proposal please outline why.

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* 29. What additional measure(s) would convince you to agree with the proposal?

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* 30. What alternative proposal would you support in respect of assistance to carers?

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