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Carers: Policy into practice

Stalker, K. (2003) Carers: Policy into practice. Research, Policy and Planning, 21 (2). pp. 57-61.

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For many years, successive UK governments have relied on the activities of carers - usually relatives or partners, sometimes friends and neighbours - to provide the bulk of 'community care' to people with support needs. Although Invalid Care Allowance was available to some carers from 1975, throughout the 1980s their input remained largely taken for granted. It was generally assumed that individuals, especially women, were willing and able to support older, disabled or ill family members. However, the late 1980s and early '90s saw a rapid rise in the growth and political influence of carers' organisations. These had started in 1965 with the formation of the National Council for the Single Woman and her Dependants which by 1986 had become the Carers National Association (CAN, now Carers UK). Partly as a result of pressure from carers' organisations, the White Paper, Caring for People (Secretaries of State, 1989), which preceded the NHS and Community Care Act 1990, stated that the second objective of the community care 'reforms' was to prioritise practical support for carers: users' assessments 'should always take account of "carers" needs' (1.11). Where significant differences emerged between users' and carers' views, the practice guidance suggested that separate consultation, or even separate assessment, of carers' needs might be advisable. Nevertheless, 'so long as they are competent, the users' views should be given more weight' (SSI/SWSG, 1991, 3.34).