The UK Government reshuffle yesterday brought a number of changes to key ministers for carers.
Conservative Minister for Disabled People Maria Miller has been promoted to Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. As a former shadow Minister for Families she has also spoken at Carers UK's Summit for three years in a row, latterly in her role at the Department of Work and Pensions. Her portfolio, which includes the replacement of Disability Living Allowance with Personal Independence Payment and a possible review of Carer's Allowance, is being taken by Wirral Conservative MP Esther McVey, who was elected in 2010. Iain Duncan-Smith, the Minister in overall charge of the Department for Work and Pensions, remains in post.
The following changes, at the Department of Health, will only affect carers in England, as health is a devolved issue.
Conservative Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, who piloted controversial NHS reforms through Parliament is moved to become Leader of the House of Commons, responsible for arranging government business in the Commons. He is replaced by Jeremy Hunt, who leaves his post as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport. Jeremy Hunt does not have a background in health policy but was a shadow Minister for Disabled People in the last Parliament.
Paul Burstow leaves his job as Care Services Minister at the Department of Health to return to being a backbench MP. A long-term advocate for carers, Paul Burstow has spoken a number of times at the Carers UK Summits both as an opposition MP and a Minister, and has pledged to speak up for carers from the backbenches. Whilst he was Minister, he introduced important new proposals to strenghten carers' rights in social care. He is being replaced by fellow Liberal Democrat MP Norman Lamb who leaves his job as a Minister at the Business department. He was Shadow Health Secretary until the 2010 election and helped lead work in 2010 to form a cross-party consensus on social care reform which he has shown a real passion for.
Following publication of the Social Care White Paper and a draft Care and Support Bill in the summer, alongside NHS reform the Department of Health is entering into a hugely important period for the future of social care. As a result, the roles of both Care Services Minister and Secretary of State for Health are particularly significant ones for carers in the coming months.
Carers UK has written to all the new Ministers to request urgent meetings around social care and welfare reform, to set out our priorities for protecting carers from cuts to benefits, reforming Carer's Allowance and ensuring that social care reform delivers the practical support families need.