Sheffield’s ‘hidden army’ of unpaid carers who look after their loved ones are to be assessed as to whether they qualify for a service that gives them a weekly break from their duties.
Respite care for Sheffield’s unpaid carers is to be scrapped ‘in its current format’.
At the moment, Sheffield Council provide a service to all carers where staff will ‘sit in’ once a week at a carer’s house with the person they are looking after to allow them some time off from their duties.
A report to Sheffield Council’s cabinet today said the current service is to end in September, but council bosses have now said no changes will take place until March to allow more time to consult with service users.
It asks councillors to approve ‘the move from a contract for sitting services for all carers to an approach where the assessment of the need is included in social care assessments and where an eligible need is identified this need will be met through a direct payment or through a separately procured contract’.
It is part of a shake-up that will see the council commissioning support services for carers from outside providers rather than delivering them directly itself.
The replacement service will not be available to people who don’t have eligible social care needs, while those who do qualify ‘may need to contribute to the cost of the service’.
There are an estimated 60,000 unpaid carers in Sheffield - but only around 8,000 are known to services.
A report by director of commissioning Joe Fowler said : “One in 10 people in Sheffield are carers; they are a hidden community that is a huge strength for the city.
“There are now fewer health and social care services but a greater demand as people are living longer, although this may not be in well health.
“Therefore building family and community assets will be important because caring will become more vital to us all.
“With reductions in public spending, we need to find innovative and different ways to do more with the available funds.”
Under the planned changes, carers’ assessments will no longer be carried out by the council’s adult social care team but instead by an outside organisation who will develop a support plan and allocate funding if it is needed.
The report said the council currently spends around £1m per year on two contracted services - the ‘sitting in’ respite service due to finish in September and an information and support service ‘to prevent career breakdown’ that is due to stop in December.
It said: “The community respite service will end in its current format.
“This service is delivered to the cared-for person but is arranged outside the social care and financial assessment process.
“The rationale for ending the existing service is to ensure equity of access and resources, a council-arranged sitting service will only be available via social care or carers’ assessment process.
“Ending this service is not a cut to carers’ services but the monies will be utilised to provide a range of break options that will be tailored to the carer.”
The report added people who use the current arrangement will continue to receive it if they have ‘eligible social care needs’ but they may need to pay towards it.
Those who don’t qualify will be given ‘information and advice’ on making alternative arrangements.
Councillor Cate McDonald, cabinet member for Health, Care and Independent Living, said: “I recognise the hard work done by carers and the contribution they make to our society.
“We’ve listened to what people have told us and want to support more carers.
“People have said they want different types of respite support which includes activities for people outside the house. We’re therefore planning to broaden respite services so more people can use them. A sitting service will still be available, as well as other types of support.
“We are maintaining the current levels of funding and will be consulting with carers on the plans as they develop. Any changes to the service will not take place until March 2017.”