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Why Carers Week is so important to us

05 June 2015

Emily Holzhausen
Director of Policy and Public Affairs, Carers UK

For the past 20 years, Carers Week has been a great opportunity to raise awareness of caring through community events and partnerships with those delivering health and care services on the ground.

The focus of the week enables us to secure media coverage which greatly increases public understanding of caring and raises the profile of what carers are doing. By bringing on board big charities we are also able to reach a much wider audience.

The profile and publicity that Cares Week brings also helps us talk to politicians directly about carers and the issues and challenges that caring brings providing us with an opportunity to educate and inform MPs about carers and their contribution.

We want the contribution carers make to families and communities, and society as a whole, to be recognised and celebrated throughout the UK. That’s the purpose of Carers Week. Having that contribution recognised and understood gives us a much better chance of influencing the policy decisions that can make life better.

Right now, many carers are struggling to make ends meet or have a moment’s break, and many are very concerned about the impact of further cuts to income and services. At such a time, it’s more important than ever that we maintain the call for recognition that Carers Week offers. Not least because Carers Week gives us an opportunity to raise awareness and cultivate relationships with new MPs and Ministers.

By itself, Carers Week won’t deliver the change required to end carers’ financial hardship and deliver the support and services we need. But building awareness and understanding is a vital part of achieving change.

Alongside Carers Week, we certainly need to shout loud that carers need more support, not less. Our first message to all MPs has been that many carers are under incredible pressure, with many struggling to make ends meet. We published the results of our annual State of Caring Survey of carers last month which highlighted the changes that carers want to see and we were pleased to see this was widely picked up in the media.

We know that the Conservative manifesto pledge to cut another £12bn from welfare over the next few years is a source of constant worry and concern for families who have already been hit hard by cuts and changes to welfare.

Without more information and any detail about this before the Budget on the 8th of July we aren’t able to reassure carers about what will happen but we are raising these fears both privately and publicly with politicians, policy makers and the media and we will continue to do so.

As long as changes to Carer’s Allowance and disability benefits remain the subject of leaks and rumour it is difficult for us to tackle the issue head on as there is no clarification from Government at this stage. Several MPs have asked questions, but nothing is forthcoming yet.

Carer’s Allowance is such a vital benefit for so many. That is why as an organisation we fought for an independent income for carers and secured that nearly four decades ago.

It is every bit as important now as it was then, for so many reasons. So we will continue to fight, not just to retain Carer’s Allowance, but to get it improved. As the Budget approaches we will be making the case for sustaining and increasing financial support for carers.

The strongest stories of all use carers’ words and carers’ experiences to underline the importance of Carer’s Allowance, and we will all need to work together on this.

 

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