Carers who are also service users (adults or children with support needs)
1. Carers might also have support needs themselves due to their own illness or disability. Section 24(5)(a) and (b) of the Carers Act (application of duty to support carer to meet the carer’s eligible needs) applies where a carer’s eligible needs might also be met through social care support provided to the carer and assessed under section 12A of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 or support for children and their families provided to the carer under section 22 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995. If the carer’s needs meet the eligibility criteria for carer support, then the duty to provide support to the carer in subsection (4)(a) applies even if those eligible needs for support also in themselves call for the provision of social care support under the 1968 or 1995 Acts.
2. This means a carer can have needs themselves as a disabled or ill person and have those needs met by social care support delivered to them. If they have eligible needs as a carer in their caring role, then the duty to provide support applies.
3. Where carers have support needs themselves, for example, each member of an elderly couple in a mutually dependent relationship, the responsible local authority will have to make decisions about whether the need arises because of the caring (e.g. depression due to challenges of caring) or because of other factors (e.g. depression due to isolation or which pre-existed the beginning of caring). This may result in artificial distinctions having to be drawn but the responsible local authority will need to exercise their judgment in determining whether the needs relate to the person’s caring role. The distinction should however be clear enough.
4. If it is impossible for a local authority to isolate a person’s needs as a carer from that same person’s needs as a user of services, the local authority may be in a position where there are potentially two sets of eligibility criteria which are relevant. (There is no statutory obligation to have eligibility criteria in respect of the decision about whether needs identified in social care needs assessments ‘call for’ the provision of services in terms of section 12A of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968, but the Scottish Ministers issued guidance in 2009 suggesting that local authorities should do so for older people (with relevance to adults with support needs too). In such a case, the duty to provide the support to the person as a carer takes precedence when the local eligibility criteria are met, regardless of whether the local authority also decides (or would have decided) that the needs call for the provision of services under section 12A of the 1968 Act.
5. In summary, and to offer pragmatic examples, a carer could have:
- support needs as a carer, some or all of which might be eligible needs – and could receive, for example, emotional support at the carers’ centre (because the caring situation is causing the carer stress and anxiety) and a short break; and
- concurrent support needs with regard to their own social care needs, some or all of which might be eligible needs – and could receive, for example, telehealth, (a health monitoring kit) because they have diabetes and this kit helps them to monitor and self-manage their condition at home.
6. In other instances, as noted above, the distinction between a carer having eligible needs as a carer and as an adult with needs for social care support could be less clear. For example, it may be difficult to distinguish if the mental ill health of the carer is due to their caring role or not, but it is apparent that a certain type of support will help the carer’s mental health. In this circumstance, the local authority must decide for itself which eligibility criteria framework to use and do so quickly so that timely support is provided.