MLAs welcome new guidance for those with carers

Alliance MLAs have welcomed new guidance allowing people more flexibility to access help from carers during the coronavirus pandemic.

The new guidance from the Department of Health will allow more flexibility around direct payments from Trusts. Direct payments are given to people who have been assessed as needing help but who have decided to buy services rather than taking them from the Trust.

It follows a cross-party Assembly motion secured by Alliance MLA Chris Lyttle last month, which called for more help for carers and those who employ them.

“A number of carers and people with disabilities had raised concerns around the provision of direct payments, given their differences between Trusts. In some cases, that lack of flexibility meant no way to access help during this pandemic, especially respite care and day care during lockdown,” said Mr Lyttle, who is Chair of the Assembly’s All-Party Group on Learning Disability.

“That has left many family carers without a break for more than four months. This news is welcome for them and Alliance will keep in continuous contact with carers through a number of organisations to monitor the implementation of the guidance”.

“This guidance outlines how such flexibilities can be applied, such as drawing on local community services and primary care providers to support people, and considering the use of assistive technology in people’s homes,” said Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong, Chair of the Assembly All-Party Group on Disability.

“Trusts need to ensure direct payments are maintained, both throughout the pandemic and beyond, to support those individuals who need them. This guidance will help Trusts to take the flexible approach needed to deliver services during this unique situation. This means people with disabilities will be able to work with Trusts to buy services bespoke for their needs.”

“Many carers have essentially been left to fend by themselves during this crisis,” added Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA.

“Last month’s Assembly motion allowed MLAs to not only give their thanks for their work throughout the pandemic but to give assurance there is light at the end of the tunnel. The flexibility in direct payment awards will allow people with disabilities to buy respite care and to bring in other support to give their exhausted carers a break. This news goes some way to showing that.”