Council charter gives support for unpaid carers

A carers’ charter was endorsed by Aberdeenshire Council’s Social Work and Housing Committee at a recent meeting and councillors heard from two carers who had received life-changing funding.

Members of the committee also agreed to withdraw charges to carers for community respite as well as respite provided by dementia support workers and direct carer services such as Voluntary Service Aberdeen (VSA) carer support.

An additional recommendation was made to ensure that a series of events for carers was organised and this was agreed to take place in Spring 2013.

There is estimated to be 29,000 adult carers and 3,075 young carers in Aberdeenshire (2012 figures) who are providing care to family members, partners or friends of any age affected by physical or mental illness, disability, frailty or substance misuse.

VSA is one organisation the council commissions to provide carer support services and members heard that 100 carers had been allocated funding over the last year for activities ranging from weekend breaks to relaxation classes and driving lessons.

A presentation from VSA development manager Lucy Whiteman and carers Patricia Young and Jimmy Clark about ‘Time to Live’ funding was also provided to give councillors an overview of the types of support provided to carers.

Commissioning manager Linda Reid said that carers play an important role across Aberdeenshire and the carers’ charter was developed by involving them in the process of its creation so they could outline what mattered to them.

This includes being treated as an equal partner; access to training; health support; information and breaks from caring.

Carer Patricia Young told her story to the audience of councillors who learned how the ‘Time to Live’ funding had made a difference to her life as a carer for her wheelchair-bound husband.

She said that she wasn’t formally a carer but became one last year after contacting VSA and accessed funding which allowed her to visit a chiropractor which has helped her own mobility in supporting her husband and changed her life.

Another carer, Jim, told the committee how he was able to get help with driving lessons and now having his licence has helped him take his wife to hospital appointments as well as being able to go on holiday trips.

VSA development manager Lucy Whiteman was asked how people apply for the funding and advised councillors that the application could be made online or via a form from VSA, through care managers and on the council’s website.

Once the application is made then a panel assesses each case to look at the benefits to the carer.

Following the meeting chair of the committee Councillor Karen Clark said: “Carers are often so busy caring they forget to take time for themselves and they do a tremendous job.

“I am delighted to see the charter in place and the council agreeing to ease the financial burden on some carers by withdrawing charges for community support and helping people to claim benefits to which they are entitled.

“Initiatives like ‘Time to Live’ show how even small amounts of funding can make a real difference to people’s lives.”

Vice-chair Councillor Alisan Norrie said: “It is vital that we support carers who provide a valuable service in our communities and I know we will continue to support carers such as those we met at committee.

“I commend the work of VSA and look forward to the carers’ events next year.”

Vice-chair Councillor Alisan Norrie said: “It is vital that we support carers who provide a valuable service in our communities and I know we will continue to support carers such as those we met at committee. I commend the work of VSA and look forward to the carers’ events next year.”

Members of the committee learned that carers are also benefitting through the Change Fund and one third of the total £3.2million allocated to projects this year would be used towards carers.

£1million has been allocated in Aberdeenshire to projects that benefit carers from new VSA development workers to support older carers to the delivery of more flexible and personalised short breaks through ‘Time to Live’.