Questions to the Minister for Health and Social Services: Questions Without Notice from Party Spokespeople (6/02/19)

Janet:

Thank you. I think my questions are—thank you. Diolch, Llywydd. May I welcome you to your first questions, I believe, Minister? I look forward to working with you, as we go forward, in this portfolio. I know, from my time with you in committee, that you're very genuine in your working.

Right, there are at least 370,000 carers in Wales, which is more than the population of Cardiff. And around three in five of us will become a carer at some point in our lives. For many young people, however, this point comes far too early. Indeed, as you will be aware, we have a selfless army of carers aged under 18 years old across Wales. Now, last week saw Young Carers Awareness Day, and many of us as Welsh Conservatives strove to raise awareness of this, and the vital role that these young champions play in supporting their sick and disabled family members. One major point of concern is the fact that some young carers are unable to continue in education or apprenticeships, because of a fear of losing their carers' allowance. Will you therefore endorse, support and ensure that we bring about a policy that we want to introduce, and that is a £60 a week young adult carers futures grant?

 

Julie Morgan AM, Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services:

I thank Janet Finch-Saunders for that welcome and very kind words. In response to her comments about young carers, we're absolutely committed to supporting carers of all ages, including young carers and young adult carers. We do think that education in the school setting is one of the key areas to identify and help young carers and I'm aware that the financial situation of young carers is often a matter for concern, and her proposal is something that we can look at.

 

Janet:

Thank you, that's very encouraging. Thank you, Deputy Minister. I believe that our grant would go a long way in helping to ensure that young carers can continue in education. This is key, but there is more still that we can do. Indeed, it is a frightening fact that YoungMinds suggest that 68 per cent of young carers have been bullied at some point because of tackling their home responsibilities. So, they've made clear signals that professionals, particularly in schools, are not yet able to spot and identify training needs, not just for the carers themselves, but for their peers. How can you be sure that the identity card will reach all carers and that adequate training is given to adults working with young people, so that we can identify our carers much sooner in the system and give them the support they need?

 

Deputy Minister:

I absolutely agree with the Member that there is a lack of awareness of the issues of young carers and it's really important, particularly in schools that there is a much wider awareness, and that is something that the Government certainly wants to work on. 

The proposal for a young carers ID card is actually being worked on at the moment by officials here in the Government and they're working with Carers Trust Wales to consider the proposals for such a scheme and working also with the education department. There are already a number of carer identification schemes in place in local authorities in Wales, and I think what we've got to do is to investigate how they are working, but what we would want to do is to introduce a national ID card for young carers. But, obviously, you can introduce the card, but you've got to make sure that people understand what the card means. So, I'd like to reassure the Member that people in the Government are working at the moment on this issue, and I think this is something that young carers themselves would welcome.

 

Janet:

Thank you, again. One aim of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2016 is to improve the well-being of carers who need support. Following this, a carer of any age has the same rights to be assessed for support as the person they care for. These assessments are undertaken by social services. However, the total number of social service staff for children and young people has not really, in any real form, improved since 2014-15, especially when one takes into account the high levels of sickness and stress that actually exist within those very departments. Therefore, what measures are you taking to ensure that young carers are able to fully receive their needs assessment—and this is a genuine assessment—and then to receive the subsequent support that they need and that they receive it promptly?

 

Deputy Minister:

It is absolutely vital, as the Member says, that correct assessments are made for young carers, and the social services and well-being Act does require that, but I am aware that many young carers have not had assessments and I know that there is variability of how the assessments actually apply. So, the Government is looking at this—looking at how to improve this and is looking at it through the ministerial advisory group for carers and in other ways. But I do think that it's absolutely crucial that young carers do get assessments, because one of the things that you have to look at in an assessment is how being a carer is affecting the ordinary, everyday life that a young person needs, and the assessments really need to take those into account when they're made. So, the assessments are crucial, but we do need to ensure they're more consistent and more widespread.