In response to the challenges of the pandemic, emergency legislation was passed, temporarily easing the duties of local authorities to prepare Adult Carer Support Plans and Young Carer Statements under the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 for unpaid carers.
Using data from a Freedom of Information request Carers Trust Scotland has found that unpaid carers have been receiving less support at a time when they are most needing it.
Hannah Martin, Research and Engagement Officer for Carers Trust Scotland, explained:
“The data and analysis from the Freedom of Information report shows a trend in unpaid carers across Scotland, receiving less support throughout the pandemic.
“It has been an incredibly challenging time for unpaid carers, and so moving forward it’s vital that carers receive the support they need. Support needs restored to at least pre-pandemic levels, to allow unpaid carers to live the life they choose.”
In May 2021, Carers Trust Scotland, on behalf of the Cross Party Group on Carers, issued a Freedom of Information request to the 32 local authorities in Scotland.
The request asked local authorities to report on various aspects of Adult Carer Support Plans and Young Carers Statements in the years 2019/2020 and 2020/2021.
Responses were received from 29 local authorities, revealing trends in the support provided to unpaid carers throughout the pandemic. Across local authorities that provided data:
- There was a decline of 21% in the number of Adult Carer Support Plans being completed from 2019/2020 to 2020/2021.
- There was a decline of 24% in the number of Young Carer Statements being completed from 2019/2020 to 2020/21.
- A reduction by 35% of adult carers met the local eligibility criteria for support in 2020/2021 than in 2019/2020.
- A reduction by 25% of young carers met the local eligibility criteria for support in 2020/2021 than in 2019/2020.
These findings are particularly important considering Carers Trust research, which found that the pandemic has been very challenging for unpaid carers in Scotland. Research published in July 2021, found that 90% of respondents were spending more time caring and 82% said they hadn’t accessed any respite since the beginning of the pandemic.
With lockdowns and restrictions, many unpaid carers have been unable to share the responsibilities with family and friends and many services paused or reduced their input. This impacted unpaid carers’ mental health and wellbeing, with many expressing feelings of loneliness, isolation, stress and anxiety.
Gillian Mackay, MSP (CO-Convenor of the Cross Party Group on Carers) said:
“The pandemic has been extremely challenging for many unpaid carers in Scotland and research tells us that the majority are spending more time caring but are unable to access respite breaks. This will have undoubtedly impacted their mental and physical health and it’s vital that all carers are able to access the support they need, when they need it.
“These findings are very concerning as they reveal that, for many carers, support has actually declined during the pandemic. This must be restored as a priority so that carers are not left struggling to cope.”
This is the context in which unpaid carers are receiving less support from their local authorities, through Adult Carer Support Plans and Young Carer Statements. Carers Trust Scotland recognise the considerable challenge the pandemic has posed to local authorities and statutory services more widely. However, for unpaid carers it is vital that support is reinstated, and their rights are upheld.
Mark Griffin, MSP, (Co-Convenor of the Cross Party Group on Carers) stated:
“Unpaid carers across the country have worked tirelessly to support family and friends at a huge cost to themselves. This important research shows that carers have continued to ask for support and Councils have provided Support Plans and statements, albeit at a much reduced rate.
” The impact of the pandemic on carers’ mental health and wellbeing has been substantial with many expressing feelings of loneliness, isolation, stress and anxiety. We must urgently make sure carers are supported and their rights are upheld as we recover from the pandemic, so that these impacts are not compounded.”