Assembly Government seeks powers to provide more support for unpaid carers

Plans to increase support for Wales’ carers have been announced by the Deputy Minister for Social Services, Gwenda Thomas.

This week the Minister unveiled proposals for a Legislative Competence Order (LCO) which will seek to give the Assembly Government powers to pass its own Welsh law (known as a Measure) to introduce legislation on carers, which is a One Wales commitment.

Wales has approximately 340,000 carers with almost 12 per cent of the population having some form of responsibility for care of a relative, the highest proportion in the UK.

In addition it’s been forecasted that in the coming years the pool of potential carers in relation to the number of people requiring care is likely to fall.

If the LCO is passed, the Assembly Government will introduce Measures to promote carers’ well-being. These might, for example, include placing a ‘duty of care’ on agencies – such as the local NHS – to provide more support to unpaid carers.

Agencies could be required to develop carers’ information strategies, as exist in Scotland, which ensure that staff at hospitals and GP surgeries offer carers more support.

This could potentially include health bodies involving carers more closely in arrangements for appointments and hospital discharge.

On announcing her plans for an LCO Gwenda Thomas said: “Over the next generation, as people live longer, the numbers of those needing care in Wales is forecast to increase substantially. This will mean added pressure on those individuals that provide unpaid care.

“Carers’ assessments and services for carers vary greatly and are patchy across Wales so we need to improve the support for those who selflessly provide this valuable role, to ensure that they themselves enjoy good health.

“This Legislative Competence Order will establish a broad enabling platform that could support a wide range of possible measures to support the provision of care by carers and promote their well-being.”

Once the LCO has been laid it will be subject to scrutiny by both the Assembly and Westminster. Royal approval for the Order is likely to be received next summer.