The Committee considered a joint report of the Directors of Adults and Communities, Children and Family Services and Public Health, the purpose of which was to advise on the outcomes of an engagement exercise and invite comments on the draft joint Leicestershire, Leicestershire and Rutland (LLR) Carers Strategy 2022 – 2025, as part of the formal consultation process. A copy of the report marked ‘Agenda Item 10’, is filed with these minutes.
The Chairman welcomed Mr. J. Morgan CC, in his capacity as Chairman of the Council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, and Mrs. H. Fryer CC, in her capacity as the Chairman of the Council’s Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee, to the meeting for this item.
Arising from discussion the following points were made:
(i) Members felt that more needed to be done to identify carers early and raise awareness of the support services available across the County. Concern was raised over the level of reliance on GPs and hospitals to identify carers and the limited action that was taken in this regard. In response to questions raised, the following points were confirmed:
a. Given the front line service they provided, GPs had the principal duty to identify and register people who were carers. Once registered, the person identified would go on to receive assessments of their caring responsibilities from both Primary Care and Adult Social Care to assess types and level of need.
b. A key area of the Strategy partners would be focusing on was improving the quality of and access to the information carers needed. Information was already publicised in a number of ways – outside of the Health System this included in Council buildings and on its websites. However, it was recognised that there were more opportunities, such as through the Council’s library and education services, to be explored. The new Carers’ Support Service was expected to be a key part of getting information out more widely.
c. Feedback previously received from carers had suggested that the best place to publicise information and advice for carers was through GP surgeries/Primary Care services. Though it was acknowledged that the changes that had occurred over the last few years (e.g. less physical visits taking place in GP surgeries) would need to be taken into account going forward. There would be an opportunity for the Council to influence health related actions via the local Carers’ Delivery Group.
d. Regarding whether the Council was able to access carer registration details stored on Health managed databases to support with the identification of carers and coordination of services, it was stated that due to data protection the Council could only access personal information on a ‘need to know’ basis. However, including a ‘carers flag’ on the LLR Shared Care Record was something that would be considered with NHS colleagues developing the Record.
(ii) Members suggested the following ways to promote information for carers and to help those with caring responsibilities recognise themselves as carers:
a. By working with District Councils through the services they delivered.
b. Articles could be included in each Leicestershire Matters newsletter distributed to every residents in the County. Hangers on dustbins could also include the same information.
c. County Councillors to be kept informed about the support available to discuss with their constituents. For example, provide them with leaflets to handout at community social group meetings.
d. Information should be kept simple and advice on completing forms, that could often be long and complex, could be usefully provided.
(iii) The physical and mental strain on people (who may be challenged by their own health problems) caring for family members was highlighted. It was commented that such people were integral to supporting the NHS and the economy. Members were reassured that improving support for such people would be a key area of focus. It was acknowledged that many were carers because they wanted to care for their loved ones, but the right support needed to be put in place to help them remain as carers. A key issue was that many people also worked alongside their caring duties so promotion of work life balance and the support available through the private sector/businesses was an avenue that would be explored. Members noted that the proposed contract for the new Carers’ Support Service also factored in the need to attract inward investment into the County to support such carers.
(iv) In reference to who the Strategy was for, it was suggested that those suffering from cognitive decline be specifically referenced as a cohort that carers provided support for. It was felt that whilst this was a condition that a number of the cohorts already referenced within the Strategy may experience (such as those living with Mental Health or Substance Misuse needs), there were other groups such as older people that also suffered from this condition who might not identify with the existing references.
(v) In response to a question raised around how the outcomes of the engagement event undertaken in 2021 had been used to inform the draft Strategy, the Director advised that overall, the event had confirmed the priorities identified within the draft Strategy to be accurate. However, it had highlighted that more focus was needed to make improvements around information and advice and promoting the use of digital options available (in line with the Department’s Delivering Wellbeing and Opportunity in Leicestershire Strategy and direction being taken nationally).
(vi) Members were further advised that young carers had not wanted their own priority which had been taken into account. However, given that many aspects of the Strategy related to young carers efforts had been made to ensure this cohort was sufficiently referenced throughout. Mrs Fryer CC commented that the disruptions to the education system during the pandemic may have had an effect on the number of young carers being identified which was something the Children and Families Overview and Scrutiny Committee would be keeping under review.
(vii) It was commented that schools were able to offer additional support to children with a recognised health condition such as by providing extra equipment or time to complete exams. It was suggested there was potential to match the offer for young carers in education.
(viii) In terms of the options to improve the support package available to carers a Member suggested that with smart phones being commonly used, having an app specifically designed for Leicestershire for people to download might be an effective and accessible way for information and advice to be provided all in one place. Having a webmail facility attached to the Customer Service Centre might also be helpful for answering any queries. A number of other Members highlighted that whilst digital technology could be useful for some not everyone could work a smart phone so there needed to be a range of options available.
(ix) There were mixed views on whether the target audiences to engage with on the Strategy should be gender focussed given the large majority of respondents to the engagement undertaken in 2021 were female. A number of Members felt that many people, particularly men, may not identify themselves as carers so the consultation needed to be as inclusive as possible to encourage a greater response.
(x) The Committee thanked the Director for the report and acknowledged that delivering the Strategy relied on each partner delivering their areas of responsibility. It was requested that Members be updated as appropriate on progress with the new Carers Support Service for Leicestershire contract.
(a) That the Director be requested to consider the comments now raised regarding the draft refreshed LLR Carers’ Strategy 2022-2025 and action plan as part of the formal consultation process.
(b) That Members be updated as appropriate on progress with the new Carers Support Service for Leicestershire contract.