New Report Calls for Recognition of Carers Rights

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On Carers Rights Day 2014, the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission & Carers NI have launched a new report “The Human Rights of Carers”. The report examines the lived experiences of carers in Northern Ireland and how their caring responsibility impacts on their enjoyment of rights.

Director Carers NI, Helen Ferguson commented:

“The vital support that carers provide is unpaid, but too often it comes at a great cost to the carer. Any one of us could find ourselves caring for a disabled, ill or frail relative or friend. We should be able to support the people we care for without damaging our own health, work prospects and financial security. We are delighted that this important report, which shows how carers’ rights could be better protected in Northern Ireland, is being launched on Carers Rights Day.”

NIHRC Chief Commissioner, Les Allamby, said:

“There are at least 214,000 Carers in Northern Ireland providing unpaid care. We know that this includes children and older people who may themselves be vulnerable. Independent research suggests that unpaid care in Northern Ireland is valued at £4.4billion a year. Human rights can ensure public services and policies that properly recognise, identify and support carers. This report considers how government has fulfilled its obligation towards carers and looks at the impact of proposed reforms. It makes practical recommendations needed to improve the level of support provided to carers in Northern Ireland.”

ENDS

Further information:

For further information or to request a media interview please contact:

Human Rights Commission:

Claire Martin on 07717731873 or Claire.Martin@nihrc.org

Les Allamby on 07745250517

Carers NI: Helen Ferguson on 028 9043 9843 or helen.ferguson@carersni.org

Notes to editors

1. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission is an independent statutory body first proposed in the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement (1998) and established in 1999 by the Northern Ireland Act (1998). It is answerable to Parliament at Westminster.

2. The Report The Human Rights of Carers will be launched at the offices of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission on Friday 28 November at 10.30am,Temple Court, 39 North Street Belfast BT1 1NA.

3. The NIHRC has made 15 key recommendations in the “The Human Rights of Carers” report:

1. NIHRC recommends that the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS) give specific consideration to the concerns and needs of older carers. In particular, raising greater awareness among older carers of the available mechanisms of support should be a priority.

2. The preamble to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) recognises that “for the full and harmonious development of his or her personality, [a child] should grow up in a family environment”. The NIHRC recommends that the DHSSPS and the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister (OFMdFM) should assess the level of support currently given to families where a child is involved in a caring role.

3. Noting the additional financial burdens that families with a disabled member and carers may face, the NIHRC recommends that NI Executive programmes aimed at alleviating poverty, including fuel poverty, must take full account of the challenges faced by carers. This matter should be considered by the OFMdFM.

4. The NIHRC recommends that the Department for Social Development (DSD) intensify efforts to ensure a greater uptake of social security benefits amongst carers.

5. Noting that costs associated with the provision of caring may be significant, the NIHRC recommends that the DSD evaluate whether the Carer’s Allowance adequately compensates carers for the cost of caring in all circumstances.

6. The NIHRC recommends that the potential impact of welfare reform proposals must be analysed by the DSD to ensure the proposals do not adversely impact on the ability of families currently in receipt of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) and Carer’s Allowance to enjoy an adequate standard of living. This should entail examining whether a fund to ameliorate the impact of these changes for people adversely affected and their carers should be introduced. In circumstances where there are significant costs arising from a person’s disability and in the provision of care, the potential for families to encounter difficulties in affording heating and food must be considered.

7. Noting the obligation to adopt legislation or to take other measures to ensure equal access to work for carers, the NIHRC recommends that the NI Executive, and in particular the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL), consider taking steps to enhance legal protections for carers seeking to exercise the right to work. In addition DEL should work with employers and carers organisations to develop resources for exit interviews for carers leaving work so that individuals can be signposted to advice and support. This should also be available to people of working age whose caring responsibilities have recently come to an end.

8. Noting the reality that child carers encounter difficulties in obtaining qualifications and employability skills, the NIHRC recommends that the DEL prioritise support for child and young carers in relevant educational initiatives. The Department of Finance and Personnel should consider how procurement policies can be used to encourage support for carers to be further embedded in the workplace.

9. The Department of Education should create a statutory duty on educational bodies to support young and student carers.1 Noting concerns regarding educational achievement amongst carers, the NIHRC recommends that further research be carried out into this matter. Such research should consider the application of the Carer’s Assessment and Children (NI) Order to determine if both mechanisms are sufficiently robust.

10. The NIHRC recommends that current mechanisms for the recording of the number of carers in HSC Trusts be reviewed to ensure that they are sufficiently robust and consistent across the jurisdiction. The DHSSPS should also place greater emphasis on the collection of information on the health and wellbeing of carers to enable early interventions.

11. Noting the important role played by the carer’s assessment in the fulfilment of the NI Executive’s human rights obligations towards carers, the NIHRC recommends:

a. that the DHSSPS assess how effectively Health and Social Care (HSC) Trusts are meeting their duty to ensure all carers are made fully aware of their right to seek a carer’s assessment;

b. that human rights considerations be fully integrated within the process for determining what supports are to be provided to carers by HSC Trusts. In particular, decision makers should be required to consider obstacles to carers fully enjoying the right to health, the right to education, the right to work and the right to maintain an adequate standard of health and well being;

c. where an obstacle to full enjoyment of a right is identified the decision maker should be required to demonstrate what supports have been put in place to address this;

d. greater provision should be made by HSC Trusts for reviewing the effectiveness of supports put in place;

e. a carer’s assessment should specifically consider whether the carer requires preventative treatments;

f. specific consideration should be given to the rights of children aged 16 or 17 who undergo a carer’s assessment;

g. DSD and DHSSPS should develop arrangements so that any successful claim for Carer’s Allowance can lead to the claimant being given advice and support to apply for a carer’s assessment where one is not already in place.

12. Considering the impact which caring responsibilities will have on a child, specific provision is required to ensure that the NI Executive is fulfilling its human rights obligation towards child carers. The NIHRC recommends that the DHSSPS introduce a child carer assessment similar to that operating in England and Wales.

13. The NIHRC has found that the right of the carer and the cared for person to participate is not fully considered when decisions are taken regarding support for the cared for person. The NIHRC notes that enhanced participation of cared for persons can lead to positive outcomes for both the carer and cared for person. The NIHRC recommends that the DHSSPS review the current processes to ensure that enhanced provision for direct payments in the health and social care system are accompanied by increased participation in decision making. Further, the DHSSPS should assess the level of support and advice provided to those who are managing direct payments.

14. The NIHRC recommends that the DHSSPS consider introducing a duty on the HSC Trusts to identify the extent to which child carers have needs for support. Assessment mechanisms should ensure adequate participation of the child in decision making processes.

15. Noting the reported lack of clarity on the inclusion of carers in the section 75 protected categories the NIHRC recommends that the OFMdFM engage with the Equality Commission NI (ECNI) and that consideration be given to issuing guidance to all NI Executive departments to ensure that the rights of carers are appropriately considered.

Access the report here


28 Nov 2014