Page last updated at 10:08 GMT, Tuesday, 9 December 2008

New powers bid to support carers

Man touching the arm of an elderly woman
Around 347,000 people in Wales care for frail and disabled relatives

Carers in Wales may get more support and help from the assembly government if its latest bid for more powers is passed.

The plans would help officials identify carers, assess their needs, deliver services and provide carers with relevant information.

Wales has the highest proportion of carers in the UK, with unpaid carers providing around 70% of care.

Carers Wales said there were many carers who got very little support.

Around 347,000 people look after frail and disabled relatives in Wales.

The deputy minister for social services Gwenda Thomas will unveil a Legislative Competence Order (LCO) - the first stage in passing its own Welsh law (measure) - later which will seek to give the assembly government powers to introduce legislation on carers.

If the LCO is approved, the assembly government will introduce a measure (its own Welsh law) to support carers and promote their well-being.

These might, for example, place a duty of care on agencies, like the NHS, to provide more support to unpaid carers.

There are 90,000 people in Wales who are caring for more than 50 hours a week and not all of them will be getting help from social services
Roz Williamson, Director of Carers Wales

Agencies could be required to develop carers' information strategies, which exist in Scotland, which ensure that staff at hospitals and GP surgeries offer carers more support.

This could potentially include health bodies involving carers more closely in arrangements for appointments and hospital discharge.

Ms Thomas said that currently assessments and services for carers varied greatly across Wales.

"We need to improve the support for those who selflessly provide this valuable role, to ensure that they themselves enjoy good health," she said.

"This Legislative Competence Order will establish a broad enabling platform that could support a wide range of possible measures to support the provision of care by carers and promote their well-being."

Roz Williamson, Director of Carers Wales said the new legislation would enable them to improve the support available to carers in Wales.

"There are 90,000 people in Wales who are caring for more than 50 hours a week and not all of them will be getting help from social services," she said.

"One of the things we hope will come out of the assembly's bid to get new legislative powers is that there will be a duty put on the health service to both identify and inform and support carers."

Once the LCO has been laid it will then be subject to scrutiny by both the Welsh Assembly and Westminster.

Royal approval for the LCO is likely to be received in summer 2009.

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