Please note that this is intended as a general overview of key aspects of the law for carers. It is not intended as an authoritative statement of the law.
The law relating to carers differs across the UK and covers a huge range of issues.
A good summary of the law relating to carers in England as it currently stands (not including the Care Act 2014 or The Children and Families Act 2014) is Carers and their Rights (5th ed) by Luke Clements.
The Care Act 2014 ( England only)
The Care Act 2014 will come into force in 2015. Its main provisions for carers simplify, consolidate and improve existing legislation, "putting carers on an equal legal footing to those they care for and putting their needs at the centre of the legislation".
It supersedes the three previous Carers Acts which laid out the nature and outcomes of carers assessment and support:
- The Carers (Recognition and Services) Act 1995
- The Carers and Disabled Children Act 2000
- The Carers (Equal Opportunities ) Act 2004.
The Care Act 2014 significantly reforms the way social care needs are assessed, met and paid for, and how social services are provided.
It also provides a way of linking assessments for carers with assessments for those they care for, and providing personal budgets and direct payments.
The Care Act will be supported by regulations and guidance which provide more details on how the Act is to be implemented. These are currently being consulted upon.
Read Carers Trust’s briefing on the Care Act and its key provisions for carers.
Children and Families Act 2014 (England only)
The Children and Families Act 2014, following extensive lobbying by the National Young Carer Coalition chaired by Carers Trust, gives young carers a right to assessment and to have their needs met. The Care Act and the Children and Families Act together should provide a framework to ensure whole family needs are met and inappropriate caring for young people is prevented or reduced.
The rights of parent carers have also been addressed within the Children and Families Act. A local authority will have a duty to provide an assessment to a carer of a disabled child aged under 18 if it appears that the parent carer has needs, or the parent carer requests an assessment.
Carers Trust has produced a briefing on the Children and Families Act and its key provisions for young carers, young adult carers and their families. You can also read an overview of the rights for young carers and young adult carers and their families in both the Care Act and the Children and Families Act.
Further information can be found by visiting young carers and parent sections of the Children and Families Act.
Regulations and guidance for the Children and Families Act has now been published.
The Equality Act 2010 (UK wide)
Under the Equality Act 2010, no individual should be discriminated against in service provision, employment or education because of the following:
- gender reassignment
- marital status
- sex or sexual orientation.
Further to this, a carer cannot be discriminated against on the basis of their association with a disabled person.
An example of this might be if a carer were refused entry to a pub because of that person’s disability: both the person with the disability and the carer would potentially have been discriminated against. Another example might be if a carer was verbally abused by a shop assistant about her son’s mental health condition.
For further information, read Equality Act 2010: What do I need to know as a carer?
Flexible working for carers (UK wide)
From 30 June 2014, all employees have the legal right to request flexible working under the Employment Rights Act 1996.
Before June 2014 the right only applied to the parents of children under 17 or 18 in the case of parents of disabled children or to those caring for an adult. Now any eligible employee can apply to work flexibly for any reason.
Employees must have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks to be eligible. Employers must deal with requests in a ‘reasonable manner’ - for example by:
- assessing the advantages and disadvantages of the application
- holding a meeting to discuss the request with the employee
- offering an appeal process.
More information is available in The right to request flexible working: an Acas guide.