West Dunbartonshire Council, Finalist 2015, The National Grid and Carers UK Best for Carers and Eldercare Award

West Dunbartonshire Council is fully committed to creating an environment that will enable both the organisation and its employees with caring responsibilities to thrive, through engagement, retention and recruitment of high-quality, loyal people. The council’s ‘Be the Best’ strategy incorporates its family-friendly policy, which recognises that ‘getting the balance right for employees also enables the organisation to flourish’.

The council has recently introduced a creative carer’s leave scheme, specifically aimed at those employees who need to balance caring responsibilities with work. The council recognised that from time to time a number of employees need time away from the workplace to care for someone. The majority of employees with caring responsibilities were able to access existing support but some found their caring demands too great and could not continue to work. While other family-friendly policies facilitate paid time off at short notice, the carer’s leave scheme allows for an extended period of leave in order to care for a dependent. The scheme is unique in that it allows the employee to spread the cost of extended (unpaid) leave over a long period to minimise the financial impact of what is essentially a career break.

This scheme really demonstrates the council’s commitment to retaining its employees with caring responsibilities, people whose only other option might be to leave employment. There is no break in service and employer pension contributions and other employee benefits such as annual leave and promotion opportunities are unaffected. The council benefits by retaining skills, knowledge and experience and improving staff wellbeing, resulting in improved engagement, loyalty and retention.

Carers are supported by managers who are encouraged to take ownership of day-to-day decisions affecting their team members. As a result, the council feels it has a confident and mature team of managers, working hard to make life easier for carers, whatever their circumstances.

West Dunbartonshire was the first local authority in Scotland to have been awarded the Carer Positive Kitemark, by Carers Scotland, and achieved ‘Engaged’ Status in February 2015. This gave the Council the motivation and impetus to strive for the next level and in a very short period of time, with concerted focus and effort, West Dunbartonshire was awarded ‘Established’ status in April 2015 which is a significant achievement for a relatively small local authority. They have more carer’s initiatives in the pipeline and are now working towards Exemplary status.