From April 2015, the Care Act will give local authorities the option to means-test unpaid carers and charge them for any support they receive but the Adult Care and Health Panel agreed to recommend sticking with the current policy of making no charge.
Councillor Colette Wyatt-Lowe, chairman of the panel and cabinet member for Adult Care and Health, said: “The council is working hard to ensure we are well placed to implement the Care Act and I am very pleased we can recommend we should not charge unpaid carers for the care and support services they receive solely for their benefit.”
The panel also agreed to recommend to Cabinet spending an extra £1 million on new support services for unpaid carers to meet anticipated increased demand arising from the Care Act. In 2013-14 the council undertook a 21 per cent increase in assessments and reviews for unpaid carers and anticipates a further 25 per cent increase in the year to March 2015.
Carole Whittle, Health and Wellbeing Manager for Carers in Hertfordshire, welcomed the decision not to charge unpaid carers for the support services they receive.
She said: “This validates the priceless work carers do day in, day out looking after a loved one at home. This unpaid care saves the NHS billions of pounds a year but comes at a cost to the carer, financially, physically and emotionally. The county council’s decision not to charge for support services sends a clear message that carers are valued in the community.
“The extra £1m funds will go some way to meeting the increased demands for support as the numbers of carers in the population continues to grow. We currently support just over 15,000 carers across Hertfordshire, a 23% increase in the last 12 months, but there is a lot more work we can do as there are estimated to be over 110,000 unpaid carers in the county. If left unsupported, we know unpaid family carers can experience feelings of isolation or depression and may be unable to continue caring for their loved one at home.”