Deputy Minister for Social Services Gwenda Thomas will unveil a Legislative Competence Order which will seek to give the Assembly Government powers to introduce legislation on carers, which is a One Wales commitment.
Wales already has the highest proportion of people in the UK with a limiting long-term illness – almost one in four of the population – and the highest rate in the UK of permanent sickness and disability in the economically inactive population at 9 per cent.
Unpaid carers provide around 70 per cent of care in the community and forecasts suggest that the pool of potential carers relative to numbers needing care is likely to decrease over the next few years.
Wales already has more than 340,000 carers, with almost 12 per cent of the population having some form of responsibility for care of a relative – a higher proportion than anywhere else in the UK.
If the Legislative Competence Order is approved, the Assembly Government will introduce Assembly Measures to support carers and promote their well-being.
These might, for example, place 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.
Gwenda Thomas said:
Over the next generation, as people live longer, the numbers of those needing care in Wales is forecast to increase substantially.
Coupled with the trend that more families are scattered across the world this means added pressures on those individuals that provide unpaid care.
Many people are now balancing work and childcare as well as caring for an ageing parent.
Carers’ assessments and services for carers vary greatly and are patchy across Wales. 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.
Roz Williamson, Director of Carers Wales said:
Carers Wales and the Wales Carers Alliance warmly welcome the Welsh Assembly Government's proposal to develop new legislation which will enable them to improve the support available to the thousands of carers in Wales who struggle to look after ill, frail or disabled family members.
Once the Legislation Competence Order has been laid it will then be subject to scrutiny by both the Assembly and Westminster. Royal approval for the Order is likely to be received next summer.
9 December 2008