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Carers Strategy for Wales – 3rd report

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Jane Hutt, Minister for Health and Social Services
I am delighted to have this opportunity to make this statement. Today we are publishing our third annual report on the implementation of our Strategy for Carers in Wales. This week is Carers’ Week and it is appropriate that we should be publishing the report to coincide with and help to reinforce other events that are being held across the country to celebrate the contribution that carers make to our society.

The report was circulated to Assembly Members earlier today. We are also making the report available in the library, and it will also be on our Carers website in the next few days.

I shall be commenting on the report later. Firstly I should like to record my thanks to the people and organisations who have helped us move the implementation of the strategy forward over the last 12 months. I would also like to thank our Carers Strategy Review Panel who have helped to put this report together and to develop our work priorities for the coming year.

Strategies have to be translated into action, and very little could have been achieved without the efforts and commitment of local authorities, the National Health Service, and the voluntary organisations. Our Carers Strategy Review Panel has also played a key role in informing our strategy. Later today there will be a reception which will provide us all with an opportunity to meet many of those who have been involved.

The reception will be attended by carers including young carers, front-line social services and carers organisations staff and other workers in this field. I would encourage you all to come along if you can, between 5 and 7 o’clock. It will be a first class opportunity to meet carers and other workers face to face in an informal setting, and to discuss the issues arising from this report and the concerns of the carers themselves and the people who are directly involved in supporting them.

Before moving on to the report I should like to give you a very brief update on some developments since the paper went to the printers.

Firstly, the Carers Grant Scheme for 2003-4. We have provided £5.6 million in grant this year for local authorities in Wales, which is an increase of £1 million over last year. I have now formally approved each local authority’s plans for utilising this funding. I am arranging for copies of these plans to be placed in the library.

Effective partnership working between local authorities, carers and the voluntary sector in the drawing up of these plans is key to the effective local use of these resources. We have seen substantial progress in such partnership working since our Strategy was first launched, some 3 years ago. But we cannot be complacent and I have asked my officials to keep in close touch with the organisations involved to ensure that this dialogue is maintained.

When we discussed the second report here last summer a number of members commented on the concerns of voluntary organisations and others about the future of our Carers Grant scheme. Our original intention was that these grant resources would transfer into the local authority revenue support grant from April 2003. However in the light of the concerns expressed by members, a consultation exercise was undertaken  last year on the future arrangements for this grant. Last December I announced that as a result of this consultation the Carers Grant would remain as a direct Assembly grant for a further 2 years and would transfer into the local authority revenue support grant from April 2005.

The Grant’s aim was to pump prime the development of services and support for carers and encourage diversity and flexibility of services for carers. While in one sense the concerns expressed about the future of the grant as a separate funding stream are a measure of the grant’s success, I do not want us to lose sight of the ultimate objective. That is, we want assessments of and the provision of services and support for carers services to be embedded as part of the mainstream of social services not as a special add-on. It is also right that local decisions about local priorities to meet identified local needs are not divorced from control of the resources.  

I am also pleased to announce that we have approved the local authority proposals for running 4 voucher scheme pilots, in Ceredigion, Carmarthen, Neath Port Talbot, and Cardiff. Again, further details of these pilots are being placed in the library.  We shall be monitoring these pilots and evaluating them towards the end of this year. Our intention is to apply the lessons learned through these pilots to roll out the voucher scheme across Wales by the end of 2004.

Turning now to the 3rd report, I am not going to go through the report page by page - it is there to be read. This year we have tried to produce a more focused document which is also a practical resource. We have also recognised that full report itself is not a very portable document so we have also produced a summary leaflet which we intend to circulate widely.  The report will help raise awareness of carer issues and the work being undertaken in Wales to support them. The list of contact points at the back of the report is designed to help people over the first and often most difficult step towards finding out who they can approach to find the help and assistance they may need.