North Lanarkshire Carers Together carried out a consultation on the impacts of the cost of living crisis on carers and the people they care for from November – December 2022. This was the only targeted research into impacts on carers in our localities.
At the end of January 2023 we reported our findings and made key recommendations to Health and Social Care North Lanarkshire (H&SC NL) and North Lanarkshire Council.
The findings were stark and caused us to refer to the cost of living ‘crisis’ as an ‘emergency’. You can read our report ‘Tackling the cost of living emergency for unpaid carers in North Lanarkshire’ for full details.
In summary, we found that 79% of carers were struggling to pay for essential household fuel bills, 69% were struggling to meet food costs and 25% were struggling to meet housing costs. We also found that 45% of carers were cutting back on meals, and 85% of carers were being forced to stop socialising due to financial constraints, increasing levels of isolation, and impacting mental health.
Following the submission of our report and recommendations to H&SC NL, we successfully achieved three out of four of these. The recommendations that will be implemented include:
- A concerted effort to increase the number of unpaid carers who access their own Self-Directed Support (SDS) budgets to support them in their caring roles.
- An immediate implementation of the latest Scottish Government guidance around increased flexibility around what current SDS payments can be used for.
- A new approach from North Lanarkshire Council’s Tackling Poverty team that prioritises identifying unpaid carers during support calls and signposts them to specific services and supports to alleviate specific caring role-related financial stressors.
NLCT welcomes these actions by H&SC NL and thanks them for their efforts following our recommendations. These actions will make material differences to carers’ lives and alleviate some financial pressures.
Our recommendation to make a one-off cash payment to carers was not implemented however, with H&SC NL explaining that this may trigger benefit checks from the Department for Work and Pensions and inadvertently adversely impact carers financially.
We have welcomed the implementation of the £1,000 payment offered to carers upon hospital discharge of the person they care for which is enabling people to leave hospital and fund carers for up to a six-week period to provide essential care. The aim of this is to allow time to put a formal care package in place. The pilot scheme has now been extended for a further 6 months, welcomed by NLCT during our Annual General Meeting at which our Chairperson invited further creative measures by H&SC NL in looking to address financial and social care impacts on carers.