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Carers not defeated by outcome of Parliamentary debate on hospital parking charges as Department of Health strengthens support for carers

30 October 2015

Today, a Bill to exempt unpaid carers from having to pay hospital car parking charges in England was debated in the House of Commons.

The Bill put forward by Julie Cooper, Labour MP for Burnley, called for unpaid carers who are eligible for Carer’s Allowance to be exempted from hospital parking charges in England.

The Bill failed to win enough support in the House of Commons today to progress to its next stage, making it almost impossible for it to become law.

Despite the outcome of today’s debate on the Bill, carers were given hope when the Department of Health updated its guidance on hospital parking charges to specifically include carers – for the very first time – as a group for which concessions, such as free or reduced charges or caps, should be available. Whilst these are guidelines and not legal duties on hospitals, national membership charity Carers UK believes this is a step towards tackling the unfair burden hospital parking charges place on carers.

The charity, together with Julie Cooper MP, launched the Park the Charges for Carers campaign earlier this month to drive public and political support for the Bill.

Chloe Wright, Policy and Public Affairs Manager at Carers UK, said:

“While we are disappointed that the Bill is unlikely to progress any further, we are pleased that it has highlighted the huge contribution carers make to our society and the very real issues they face each and every time they take their loved one to hospital. From the stress of having to renew a ticket to the burden that charges place on family finances. The overwhelming support for the Bill has demonstrated how important this issue is to carers.
“This is a missed opportunity to better support carers, who we know are having to care for longer against a backdrop of cuts to local services and social security. However, we do welcome the Department of Health’s move to explicitly include carers, for the very first time, in their guidance on which groups should receive concessions when it comes to hospital car parking charges. We urge MPs and carers alike to write to their local hospitals to see if, and how, they are implementing this new guidance.
“We would like to thank all the MPs that supported the Bill, and in particular Julie Cooper MP, for her determination to make life better for carers.”

Facts about carers and the cost of parking:

  • The UK’s 6.5 million carers save the state £119bn every year; close to the total amount spent annually on running the NHS
  • Hospitals charge anywhere between an average of £11-£131.50 per week in parking charges when their loved ones go in to hospital
  • The percentage of hospitals charging patients and visitors to park has doubled in a decade to 30% in 2014-15
  • Of NHS Trusts that charge patients and visitors for parking in England, almost two-thirds (63%) have increased their charges since last year
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