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In response to the national vaccine supply profile over April, NHS England has made changes to the National Booking System as of today, 1st April. The self-elective routes currently available to carers who are unknown to the health and care systems will no longer be available. Instead, carers who are eligible and haven’t been called forward are being asked to contact their GP practice to be assessed and registered as a carer, and subsequently will be offered a Covid-19 vaccination.

Today Public Health England published a new report ‘Caring as a social determinant of health: Findings from a rapid review of reviews and analysis of the GP Patient Survey’.

The report finds that carers are at increased risk of illness, and specifically musculoskeletal conditions, cardiovascular disease, generalised cognitive deterioration and function, and poor sleep. The report also finds that carers struggle to access services and are at risk of financial hardship.

The Department for Health and Social Care has announced further funding for social care during the pandemic. This announcement included £341 million to support adult social care services with the costs of infection prevention, control and testing. A further £138.7 million was announced for rapid testing in adult social care settings from existing Test and Trace funding.

On Tuesday 16th March 2021 Health and Social Care Secretary of State, Matt Hancock MP, answered questions about the Government’s proposed Health and Care Bill and the recently published health and care white paper.

Parliamentary Select Committee member Barbara Keeley MP asked what steps the Government would be taking in the legislation to strengthen the rights of unpaid carers, and ensure they start to be included in health and care planning.

The Health and Social Care Secretary said this was an important point and welcomed the opportunity to work on it together.

Unpaid carers who are not known to health and care services and therefore have not been called forward for the COVID-19 vaccine now have a route to check whether they are eligible and apply for a vaccination appointment.

Unpaid carers are currently being called forward for their first COVID-19 vaccinations as part of cohort six in the national vaccine roll-out.

Eligible carers for the vaccine include those who are eligible for a carer’s allowance, are identified as a primary carer by their GP, or are receiving support following a Carer’s Assessment by their local council or from a local carer’s organisation.

These carers known to Government and health and care services are already being contacted about booking an appointment.

Now, a route for unpaid carers over the age of 18 who are not in contact with formal services has been set up for them to check whether they are eligible for an appointment and book a vaccination.

The national charity Carers UK is encouraging carers to check their eligibility and contact the National Booking Service at www.nhs.uk/covid-vaccination, or by ringing 119, to complete a short application process to determine if they are eligible to book their vaccination appointment.

Today NHS England has published its Standard Operating Procedure for deploying the COVID-19 vaccine to unpaid carers in England.

Unpaid carers are included in cohort six of the JCVI’s vaccine priority list and are now in the process of being called forward for their first vaccinations. The Standard Operating Procedure explains in detail the process by which unpaid carers will be called for their vaccination, as well as making provision for those unpaid carers who may not already be known to the health and social care systems to come forward. 

The Government has recognised that the lists currently held will not identify all eligible unpaid carers and they will provide information on the application process for unknown unpaid carers to come forward in the coming week.

The Chancellor failed to mention social care in the Budget 2021 statement.  

  • Virgin Media and Carers UK are beginning a five year strategic partnership which will use technology and innovation to address the loneliness experienced by eight in ten unpaid carers

Carers UK was sad to learn that former Labour MP, historian and Vice President of Carers UK Dr Hywel Francis died in hospital on Sunday.

He was the MP for Aberavon for 14 years until he stood down at the 2015 general election and did much to further the rights of unpaid carers.

Hywel successfully introduced the Carers Equal Opportunities Act in 2004, recognising that carers need "a life beyond their caring responsibilities”. This important piece of legislation dictates that carers should receive adequate personal support and information about their entitlements from local authorities. Hywel said the legislation was about valuing carers and their role and “not hiding them away”.

While going through Parliament this legislation was called Sam’s Bill, in memory of Hywel’s disabled son Sam who had Down’s Syndrome and died in 1997.

As of tomorrow (Monday 15th February), unpaid carers will be included in the next phase of the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine and will begin to be called forward for their first jab.

Unpaid carers are in cohort six of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation’s priority list for the vaccination. Unpaid carers are defined by the JCVI as “those in receipt of a carer’s allowance, or those who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill”.

Carers UK welcomes the news that unpaid carers will be called forward in this next phase after the national charity led calls for them to be included in the JCVI priority list when they were left out of previous announcements. These calls saw the JCVI include unpaid carers clearly in cohort six on 30th December 2020.

The JCVI recognised that where the main carer for an older or disabled person falls ill with COVID-19, the welfare of the person they care for would be at serious risk.

The Government has today published its legislative proposals for a new Health and Care Bill that aims to improve the delivery of public health and social care.

It aims to support local health and care systems to deliver care in a way that is less legally bureaucratic and more joined up. The Government has promised to bring forward proposals for reform of adult social care later this year.

There is currently no explicit mention of unpaid carers in the white paper proposals for the Bill, although it talks about people’s services and their families.  

  • Carer’s Allowance due to increase by paltry 35p a week
  • Carers UK delivers a letter from 5,000 carers calling on the Chancellor to acknowledge unpaid carers’ contribution throughout the crisis

On 11th January 2021 the Government set out how it plans to deploy its supply of COVID-19 vaccines in its Vaccines Delivery Plan, a huge task undertaken at unprecedented speed.  

Previously on 30th December, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) placed unpaid carers in group six of the priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine which Carers UK welcomed, as previous priority lists had not included carers. However, the delivery plan does not include this reference to carers in priority six, which should be clearly included.  

On Monday 4th January 2021 the Prime Minister announced that there would be a third national lockdown in England starting on Wednesday 6th January. The regulations allow unpaid carers to continue providing essential care. A family member or friend can also do this to provide respite care for someone who is caring.

The Prime Minister also advised people who are clinically extremely vulnerable to start shielding again.

Carers UK has welcomed the inclusion of unpaid carers in the publication of new COVID vaccination advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) published yesterday (30.12.2020).  This advice recommends that carers who are in receipt of Carer’s Allowance or are the main carer of  an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer contracted COVID should be included in Priority 6 alongside people with underlying  conditions. 

On 20th December new restrictions came into force across England, with regions split into four tiers.

81% want Government to show it values their contribution this year

Carers UK is delighted to be working alongside Carers Trust which is leading a dedicated programme to support hidden and under-represented groups of unpaid carers who have been most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic

In its advice published today, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has not included unpaid carers - people caring for older, disabled and seriously ill relatives - in its priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine. The priority groups are as follows:

1: Residents in a care home for older adults and their carers (here they refer to care workers)

2: All those 80 years of age and over Frontline health and social care workers

3: All those 75 years of age and over

4: All those 70 years of age and over Clinically extremely vulnerable individuals*

5: All those 65 years of age and over

6: All individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality

7: All those 60 years of age and over

8: All those 55 years of age and over

9: All those 50 years of age and over

On 2nd December new restrictions will come into force across England, with regions split into three tiers.

As in the previous tier system and throughout the second national lockdown, unpaid carers can continue to provide essential care. Support groups for unpaid carers can also continue in all three tiers.

The regulations allow carers in all three tiers to arrange for another family member or friend to provide respite care so that they can take a break.

Furthermore, the new regulations allow people caring for someone with a disability at home to form a support bubble with another household, a “linked household”. If they are just one adult caring for someone with a disability they can form a support bubble. If a carer has a child under 5 with a disability then even if there is more than one adult in the household they can form a support bubble.

Carers UK is renewing its calls for the UK Government to prioritise unpaid carers for the COVID-19 vaccine, after the Scottish Government announced it would do last week.

When Carers UK asked carers in October what support they needed most, carers ranked their prioritised access to vaccinations highly at second place, even putting this above breaks and increases in benefits such as Carer’s Allowance.

Caring during the pandemic has been one of the hardest things carers say they have done, as they have tried to manage with limited support from services that have been reduced or closed entirely. They have spent nine months worrying about the risk of infection to the people they care for with complex health or care conditions, and this has taken its toll on their own health.

Carers UK has raised the issue of prioritised access to the COVID-19 vaccination with the Minister for Care and it was a recommendation from the Carers Advisory Group to the Adult Social Care Taskforce. It was also a key recommendation in our recent Caring Behind Closed Doors: Six Months On report, published in October.

We want to see carers prioritised for the COVID-19 vaccination for the same reasons they are recognised as a key worker during this pandemic, and are prioritised for the flu jab.  The Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recognised that if carers got the flu, then this could be catastrophic, impacting carers’ ability to care and putting the person they care for at risk. When unpaid carers cannot continue to carry out care, this places additional pressure on social care and health services.  We want the same logic applied to the COVID-19 vaccination.

Last week, the Health Secretary in Scotland announced that unpaid carers would be on the priority list for the COVID-19 vaccination. Carers Scotland and Carers UK has warmly welcomed this move, but we are now calling on the other three Governments to follow suit and value carers.

  • Care provided by families valued at £135 billion over course of the pandemic so far
  • Carers UK calls on Government to recognise contribution of millions of carers and protect their health and wellbeing

In the Chancellor's one year Spending Review today, he promised the following for adult social care:

  • Local authorities will be able to increase their council tax bills by 2 per cent without needing to hold a referendum, and social care authorities will be able to charge an additional 3 per cent precept to help fund pressures in social care. 
  • This funding is additional to the £1 billion social care grant announced last year which is being maintained. The government expects to provide local authorities with over £3 billion to address Covid-19 pressures, including in adult social care.

In a survey of more than 100 councils by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), many are reporting unprecedented demand for help.

  • 82% of adult social services directors report rising demand for help from people being discharged from hospital;
  • 69% report an increase in cases of domestic abuse and safeguarding of vulnerable adults;
  • 63% report growing numbers of people seeking help because of the breakdown of unpaid carer arrangements through sickness or unavailability.

ADASS is warning that unless adult social care is prioritised in the government spending review on Wednesday, millions of people could be at risk of receiving no care or support as the crisis continues.

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