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Chamber and committees

Meeting date: Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Health and Sport Committee 23 February 2021

Agenda: Subordinate Legislation, Social Care Inquiry, University of St Andrews (Degrees in Medicine and Dentistry) Bill: Stage 2


Contents


Subordinate Legislation


Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 (Adult Carers and Young Carers of Terminally Ill Persons: Timescales for Adult Carer Support Plans and Young Carer Statements etc) Regulations 2021 [Draft]

The Convener (Lewis Macdonald)

Good morning and welcome to the Health and Sport Committee’s seventh meeting in 2021. We have received apologies from George Adam and Alex Cole-Hamilton, and I welcome Bob Doris as a substitute for George Adam. I ask all members and witnesses to ensure that their mobile phones are in silent mode and that all notifications are turned off.

Agenda item 1 is consideration of a draft affirmative instrument. It is for the committee to consider the instrument and report to Parliament accordingly, and we will have an evidence session with the Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing and her officials. Once we have asked our questions, we will have a formal debate on the motion.

I welcome to the committee Mairi Gougeon, Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing, who is accompanied from the Scottish Government by her officials: John Paterson, solicitor and deputy director, legal directorate; Lindsey Henderson, head of carers policy; and Joanne Pierce, carers policy officer. Thank you for joining us. I invite the minister to make a brief opening statement.

The Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing (Mairi Gougeon)

Thank you for the opportunity to speak about the regulations. I acknowledge that we would all like Parliament to have considered the regulations before today, when it is almost three years after the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 came into effect.

Everyone agrees that, because of the extreme pressure and urgency of their situation, unpaid carers of terminally ill people should be prioritised, but it has been hard to achieve consensus on appropriate timescales. Finding a workable approach that ensures that urgent issues are identified and addressed quickly for those vulnerable carers has led us to a detailed set of regulations. The regulations will give carers two new key rights, if they decide that they want an adult carer support plan or a young carer statement.

First, such carers will have the right to a substantive conversation, within five working days, to look at their caring situation and identify immediate or urgent issues and needs for support. Having that early conversation with someone who understands what a carer is going through and knows what support is available can be a help in itself.

Secondly, such carers will have the right to an adult carer support plan or young carer statement within 10 working days of requesting one or accepting an offer to prepare one. If that is a light-touch plan that focuses on the most pressing issues and needs for support, the local authority needs to agree with the carer when it will address outstanding issues in a follow-up plan or statement. When it is appropriate, there is nothing to stop authorities working more quickly, and the carer always has the right to do things at a slower pace, if they prefer to do so.

It is worth highlighting that the regulations will come into force on 31 July; by that time, we expect the current exceptional pressure on authorities and local carer services to have eased. Those organisations have always stressed that they prioritise carers of terminally ill people, and we set that date to allow them to adapt their procedures once they are under less pressure. I am happy to take questions from the committee.

The Convener

I invite colleagues who have questions to type R in the chat box.

The issue of identifying carers and people who are terminally ill has been raised by organisations that, with the Government, have been involved in working towards producing the regulations. Putting timescales in place for people who are identified as carers is a positive step, but the regulations do not directly address how we identify people as carers. Will you comment on that?

Mairi Gougeon

You are absolutely right—it is key that we recognise carers and identify them as quickly as possible, so that what we set out in the regulations kicks in as soon as possible. That is the purpose of the regulations. The last thing that we want is any delay in supporting carers of terminally ill people. Those carers can be identified through their general practitioners or their health authorities, so that the process kicks in as quickly as possible. That is a vital element of the process. I do not know whether any officials have anything to add.

Joanne Pierce (Scottish Government)

You asked about the identification of carers, convener. We ran a marketing campaign for six weeks before Christmas because identifying all carers—not only carers who look after someone with a terminal illness—is an issue. The marketing campaign was about helping people to identify as carers in general and about understanding that they are carers. That works across the board with all carers.

Emma Harper (South Scotland) (SNP)

I welcome the regulations—a lot of work has gone on to produce them. I note that Age Scotland raises the concern that carers who have reached crisis point might find it difficult to retain information. It suggests that there is a

“need for support which is accompanied with simplified written information which records the agreed outcomes.”

Will the minister confirm that that will be required of local authorities, for example? How will people be supported to have written information available?

Mairi Gougeon

I thank the member for that point. That is why what we have set out in the regulations about establishing the light-touch plan within the first 10 working days after contact with a carer is so important, because that should highlight and identify any immediate and urgent needs that the carer has, as well as identifying a future date when they can revise the plan and see whether further information is needed as a result. That will very much be part of the process.

I completely understand the concern that Age Scotland expresses—there is a lot of information to take in at what can be a traumatic time in somebody’s life, so we want to make sure that the information is well understood and that, ultimately, carers get the care and support that they need.

Emma Harper

Age Scotland is key in helping to support, deliver and disseminate changes to the regulations. Will the Government continue to make sure that organisations that support older people have the information that they need to support their members?

Mairi Gougeon

We have had close engagement with a number of third sector organisations throughout the work on preparing the regulations. That work will certainly continue as we progress.

The Convener

I see no other members who wish to ask questions. We move to the formal debate on the affirmative instrument on which we have just taken evidence. I invite the minister to move motion S5M-24035 and then members can contribute to the debate if they wish.

Motion moved,

That the Health and Sport Committee recommends that the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 (Adult Carers and Young Carers of Terminally Ill Persons: Timescales for Adult Carer Support Plans and Young Carer Statements etc.) Regulations 2021 [draft] be approved.—[Mairi Gougeon]

The Convener

No members wish to contribute to the debate.

Motion agreed to.

The Convener

That concludes consideration of the instrument, and we will report to Parliament accordingly.


Community Care (Personal Care and Nursing Care) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2021 [Draft]

The Convener

We move to consideration of another draft affirmative instrument. The Minister for Public Health, Sport and Wellbeing is with us to address members’ questions, and she is supported by officials from the social care policy and delivery division: Marianne Barker, the unit head, and Ian Golightly, policy officer. I invite the minister to make a brief opening statement.

Mairi Gougeon

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to the committee. The draft regulations make annual increases to the rates for free personal and nursing care payments, which help to cover the cost of those services for self-funding adults in residential care.

In recent years, the payments have increased in line with inflation. Had we done the same this year, we would have uplifted the figures by 1.94 per cent. However, emerging evidence, including that from the Scottish care home census, shows that the cost of providing care has increased significantly. To help to address that, the instrument makes a 7.5 per cent increase to the weekly payment rates for the year 2021-22, which is a significant increase on the inflationary rate that was used previously. That means that the weekly payment rate for personal care for self-funders will rise from £180 to £193.50, and the nursing care component will rise from £81 to £87.10.

It is estimated that the increases will cost about £10.1 million in the next financial year. That will be fully funded by additional provision in the local government settlement, as outlined in the recent 2021-22 Scottish budget.

The most recent official statistics show that more than 10,000 self-funders receive free personal and nursing care payments, and they should all benefit from the changes. I am happy to take the committee’s questions.

The Convener

I ask members who have questions to put an R in the chat box.

I ask you to elaborate on your point about the different percentage increase this year. The pandemic has had an impact on the care sector in general and on care homes in particular. Is the additional increase designed to meet specific Covid-related needs, or has it simply become clear that the underlying finances of the care sector require such support and would have done regardless of the pandemic?

Mairi Gougeon

As I said in my opening statement, the evidence that we have seen over recent times, including the Scottish care home census, shows that the costs of providing such care have increased hugely. Raising the payments by the rate of inflation only, which would have been typical for other years, would not have addressed the increase in cost. In an attempt to balance that out and address it, we decided on the 7.5 per cent increase, which has also been agreed by the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities.

The Convener

As there are no further questions, we move to the formal debate on the affirmative instrument on which we have just taken evidence from the minister. I invite her to move motion S5M-24001.

Motion moved,

That the Health and Sport Committee recommends that the Community Care (Personal Care and Nursing Care) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2021 [draft] be approved.—[Mairi Gougeon]

The Convener

No members wish to contribute to the debate.

Motion agreed to.

The Convener

That concludes consideration of the instrument, and we will report to Parliament accordingly. I thank the minister and her officials.