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Report back from Wales Carers Summit 2nd October 2009

14 October 2009

Carers from all over Wales attended our very successful summit in Mid Wales. They took time out from their busy caring responsibilities to listen to and question politicians from Westminster and the Welsh Assembly Government.

 

The first part of the Summit was a summary by Roz Williamson, Director of Carers Wales of the key initiatives and issues for carers both in Wales and in the UK.

This was followed by Helen Mary Jones, Assembly Member for Llanelli who spoke about how she has worked with the government in Wales to create a new law to improve the help and support available for carers. The first stage is of this long and complicated process is nearing completion. Helen Mary's determination to make carers a priority came about as a direct result of being challenged by a carer at a "Question time " event in 2007, organised by Carers Wales. The carer said he was fed up with politicians telling him how wonderful he was; he wanted help. Helen Mary pledged that if she was returned to the Assembly, she would do her best to help change the lives of carers and when her opportunity came up to put forward a private member's proposal she chose carers and has received unanimous support.

Later in the morning carers broke in to groups to identify key demands for both Westminster and the Assembly. Unsurprisingly, from the Westminster government, every group wanted carer poverty, the unfair level of carers allowance and the unfair benefit rules (overlapping benefits and carers allowance ending at pension age) to be addressed.

Other demands included:

Simplifying the whole benefit system, including claim forms

Attendance Allowance / Disability Living Allowance to continue when individuals have to go to hospital.

An issue around Disability Living Allowance being stopped and how the appeal process for reinstatement of benefits takes too long, pushing disabled people and their carers into further poverty.

A system similar to tax credits to enable carers to work and pay for replacement care

The flexible working law for carers to be strengthened with carers having the right to request flexible working as soon as they start work and not have to have worked for an employer for 6 months.

Equality of opportunity and support for carers

Issues for the Welsh Assembly Government included :

Simplification of Direct Payments

Independent advocacy for carerswas brought up in two workshops.

The importance of the carers' roles need to be recognised and carers listened to relating to their knowledge of the person they care for

Improvements in emergency alternative care services for carers when they are ill

Improvements in respite care especially for people with higher level medical needs

Health and social care to work together. Jointly funded support workers would cut bureaucracy.

The third question relating to the new law proposed to support carers in Wales. We asked what new law could be implemented to make the biggest difference to the greatest number of carers in Wales.

This generated a number of different suggestions including:

A duty to provide services for carers following an assessment.

A duty for carers assessments to be done within a certain time limit from the request

A duty for health and social care to provide joint funding for carer key workers

Emergency allocation of equipment

After lunch, we were joined by representatives from the four main political parties in Wales. Each speaker had an opportunity to address the Summit before to answering questions from carers. The speakers were: Julie Morgan MP (Labour Party), Hywel Williams MP (Plaid Cymru), Mark Williams MP (Liberal Democrats) and Suzy Davies (Prospective Party Candidate – Conservative Party)

Several carers raised deep concern about possible loss of AA and DLA which was mentioned in the England Green Paper on "Shaping the Future of Care Together". Other carers raised issues relating to the unfair level of carer benefits and the overlapping benefit rule. This was the strong and clear message from carers for each of the speakers to take back to their own party and include in each of their Manifestos.

Some comments from carers from the evaluation forms at the end of the day

The best summit ever

Very informative

It is always a pleasure to meet other carers

Beautiful Lunch. Very informative. Really enjoyable day

Good to meet other carers, very happy group

Workshops useful – maybe more time required for the issues to be discussed

Clearer idea of the process of Welsh Assembly Government and Westminster

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