When carers are recognised and valued by the existence of a Carer Passport in their community, it normalises their role and goes some way towards removing some of the stigma attached to caring.
The most effective Community Carer Passport schemes appear to be those which have high visibility within communities, include good discount incentives, provide a joined-up approach to services and involve carers meaningfully.
- Through having a strong identity as something which tangibly benefits carers, such as a discount scheme, there is less risk that the Carer Passport will be seen purely as a bureaucratic tool.
- Easy access to the scheme means carers and other organisations involved can quickly see its benefits. Carers repeatedly mention the value of personal, one-to-one contact with someone who listens, avoids jargon, and takes time to help. If this can be built into the way carers are connected with information and support at the start of their engagement, then this will provide a strong foundation for the scheme.
- Good practice demonstrates a joined-up, coordinated response from sectors of the community. To have a positive impact on carers’ lives and enable them to get the tailored support they need, the scheme should be co-delivered between the local authority, Carers Service and other service providers.
- Good practice examples are all developed alongside organisations that represent carers or carers themselves. Local Carers Services are embedded within their community and will have insight into the needs of the local population. Carers, who all have lived experience, are uniquely placed to help design a service that will have a positive impact on their lives.
Challenges to overcome
- One of the biggest challenges is that carers aren’t always aware of schemes, and from the start of their caring situation. Similarly, when schemes are operating in specific settings, there can be issues with professional awareness. Whatever the setting, the offer to the carer must be clear.
- It can be a challenge to maintain effective coordination between the multiple organisations and agencies which come into contact with a carer’s life. A joined-up response is essential, but with one organisation leading. The reach of the scheme across sectors will be limited if a coordinated response and senior level buy-in is not built in from an early stage.
- A further challenge is recording carer information, including information-sharing protocols, data protection and ensuring that all the data is kept up-to-date, especially as carers’ circumstances can change rapidly.
- With any Carer Passport which operates a discount element, there may be concerns about fraud. Mitigating this can include having expiry dates on the Carer Passport or asking carers to come in to the Carers Centre to renew it. However, from the evidence to date, there appears to be minimal experience of fraudulent use of the scheme – so this may be a perceived risk, rather than a real one. If the identity card contains a photograph, this can reassure businesses that the card user is the carer.
- Finally, businesses and service providers need to see the benefits of their involvement. In rural areas, for example, they may not initially see the footfall back to them. Growth of the scheme needs to be relatively rapid to build confidence, and successes shared. Where there is investment, this confidence will build over time. Having clarity of purpose remains key, so that even when schemes start small, they can grow – realising the great potential which Passports can offer local communities.
Promoting Community Carer Passport schemes
Make the Carer Passport scheme visible by providing stickers for display in participating shop windows and a recognition of carers via leaflets and posters at GP surgeries. Promotion and implementation needs to ensure that the caring experience is normalised, and any stigma attached to it reduced.
Having a clearly branded local offer aids promotion within specific settings and across multiple settings. This aids buy-in and improves carer awareness of a scheme. Ideally, the Carer Passport will have multiple agencies and services sign up to it, and multiple points of access for carers. Promotion should show evidence of senior commitment from Principal Commissioners of the County Council, NHS and local voluntary sector organisations, and the endorsement of leading figures within the community.
One of the challenges facing those developing existing models is that not everyone has access to the internet, and hard copies of the list of local offers quickly goes out of date. However, local businesses usually display a sticker to indicate that they are members of the scheme and part of the offer.
The Carer Passport should be promoted through a number of channels to ensure it reaches far and wide, including to older carers who may face heightened isolation. It must also make sure that the needs of young carers are being met - that an offer is made to them too, that they qualify for concessions and can access them.
Developing and promoting local schemes with the involvement of carers themselves can help to build a package of support which is tailored to what they need and will be championed by them amongst their own networks.