Supporting carers

18 January 2017

Mental health carers’ assessments in policy and practice

Kirsty Matthews

18 January 2017

1.5 million carers in the UK look after someone with a mental health problem (Carers Trust, 2013). Caring can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience, but it does present particular challenges.

Caring can affect a person’s ability to work, socialise, look after yourself and live fully day-to-day. Caring can put strain on an individual’s finances, especially if the carer has to give up paid employment. It can also lead to social isolation, and 87% carers feel that it undermines their own mental health (Age UK et al, 2012).

The Care Act (2014) came into force in April 2015, with part of its remit to recognise the role and importance of carers, and to give carers more statutory rights to support.

Carers’ assessments are a key feature of this Act. They are a duty placed on local authorities to offer carers an assessment of their needs, in order to identify potential support needs.

However, mental health carers face significant challenges to accessing these carers’ assessments and the support that may follow:

  • Many people do not identify themselves as ‘carers’.
  • Data protection laws which can limit information sharing.
  • Limits to the support that is available to a carer once the assessment has taken place.
  • Differences between local areas in the quality of carers’ support.

When care practitioners are under pressure to achieve assessment targets, the amount of time they can spend supporting carers and ‘going the extra mile’ may be limited. Yet without adequate support, carers can feel isolated and may subsequently suffer from ill health, further affecting those they care for.

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