Carers bill means councils will have to assess how they will support carers by producing an adult carer support plan or young carer statement
A new law aimed at strengthening the rights of carers has been passed by the Scottish Parliament.
The Scottish Government's new Carers Act will means that for the first time, all carers will have the right to request an assessment from their local authority of their need for support through an adult carer support plan or young carer statement.
The definition of a carer has also been extended, so that many more people will be able to access these plans.
The new law also means councils and health boards will need to publish local carer strategies setting out their plans for identifying carers. This will need to assess demand for support and contain information about the particular needs and circumstances of young carers.
Health and social care boards will also be required to set up their own information and advice service for carers on issues such as emergency and future care planning, advocacy and carers’ rights.
The passing of the Carers (Scotland) Bill into law is a hugely significant step in improving the identification and support of unpaid carers in Scotland - Florence Burke
The proposals were broadly backed by opposition MSPs though concerns were raised about the cost of implementing the proposals.
Health improvement minister Jamie Hepburn said the government was committed to supporting carers.
He told parliament: “When the bill’s provisions are fully in place, they will be accompanied by a substantial pocket of funding of some £80 million.
“That is the amount that the Scottish Government is providing to support the bill’s provisions. We will fund the bill.”
Hepburn added society owed carers, of which there are just under 800,000 of in Scotland, an enormous debt of gratitude and said the new law represented an important step towards recognising the huge contribution they make to their family, friends, communities, and the wider economy.
He added: "In the weeks and months ahead there will be a significant effort required to ensure that we, with care interests including carers and their representative organisations, pave the way for commencement of the bill in 2017/18. There will be challenges ahead.
"I know that there is a genuine desire from all parties in this chamber to see the bill implemented successfully and to achieve positive outcomes for carers."
Enable Scotland said it welcomed the bill, particularly as the new adult carer support plan and young carer statements will have to contain information about emergency planning – for example what happens if a carer gets ill – something the charity has long campaigned for.
Jan Savage, Enable Scotland’s executive director of campaigns and external affairs, said: “We are really grateful to the first minister and to Jamie Hepburn for working with us to secure this positive outcome for carers across Scotland.
“We thank the government for its commitment to work in partnership with Enable Scotland to develop the associated guidance, which will ensure access to emergency planning increases for unpaid carers across Scotland."
Florence Burke, director of Carers Trust Scotland, added: “The passing of the Carers (Scotland) Bill into law is a hugely significant step in improving the identification and support of unpaid carers in Scotland.
“We will continue to work with Scottish Government and local authorities to assist with the implementation of the bill and to ensure that carer voices are heard throughout the process.”