APPG on Carers: "The Carers Strategy has come at a pivotal moment as the amount of unpaid care being provided is going up as care needs increase"
Policy, Research and Public Affairs Officer, Carers UK
This week the Minister for Community and Social Care, Alistair Burt MP, came to a meeting of the APPG on Carers supported by the APPG on Motor Neurone Disease to talk to fellow MPs about the latest developments in the Carers Strategy.
Before the Minister spoke, he and the MPs in attendance heard a powerful testimonial to the challenges facing carers from Deirdre, whose husband Roch was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease seven years ago. Deirdre spoke eloquently about the devastating nature of MND and the struggles she faces as a carer, especially financially.
Whilst Deirdre had a supportive employer, she still had a significant drop in income as she had to reduce her hours and take time out to care. Deirdre wants the Carers Strategy to ensure that all carers receive the same understanding from their employer that she did, that carers are given the right information at the right time, and that the speed with which support is provided is improved.
"The Carers Strategy has come at a pivotal moment as the amount of unpaid care being provided is going up as care needs increase"
The Minister spoke about the importance of hearing carers tell their stories and thanked Deirdre for sharing hers with the MPs present. The Minister said that the Carers Strategy has come at a pivotal moment as the amount of unpaid care being provided is going up as care needs increase – caring is becoming part of life for more of us and a cultural shift is needed to acknowledge this. The state cannot replace this care but the strategy needs to look at how support for carers can be improved now and for those who will provide care in the future.
Alistair Burt MP reflected on what the Government has heard so far in response to the call for evidence. He highlighted submissions about the impact of caring on physical and mental health but he recognised that as carers put the person they care for first, it takes them time to recognise this. It is important that carers have their sense of self, outside of their caring. He also said that the need to improve support for carers to remain in work has come across strongly and that there is impetus behind new social legislation to address this issue.
"The importance of being listened to and involved by health professionals has also been raised by many carers."
Some of the other things that carers mentioned include the need to see the human face of services; the need for services to support them and those they care for in a holistic way as well as emotional support and counselling to be available. The importance of being listened to and involved by health professionals has also been raised by many carers.
MPs then shared their personal experiences of caring: one MP had been unaware of support, looking after elderly parents and two small children. Another MP spoke of caring for his mum who has just passed away from MND. When MPs raised financial difficulties, the Minister was clear that he did not have a remit from the Treasury but that should not put carers off disclosing their financial situation. The Minister also said he recognised that there is more to do in embedding the Care Act and said that the Department of Health and ADASS are looking at the implementation across local authorities at the moment.
The Minister will be writing to all MPs after the EU Referendum, calling on them to meet with the carers in their local area and feed back what carers in their areas are calling for.
"She wants, above all, to say goodbye as a wife, not a carer. Surely it’s not too much ask that she is supported to do so?"
Meanwhile, for Deirdre, she has become the hands, legs and voice for her husband. Her role is all encompassing, engrossing and exhausting – both physically and emotionally. She is living in a ‘country of last times’ and she wants, above all, to say goodbye as a wife, not a carer. Surely it’s not too much ask that she is supported to do so?
- Click here to access the Carers Strategy call for evidence.
- Click here to download our State of Caring 2016 report.
- Deirdre submitted a short story in our creative writing competition 2014 which was highly commended and included in our first anthology. Click here to find out about the 2016 competition, which is open now.