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Carers Meeting with Local MP - Carers UK Forum

Carers Meeting with Local MP

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These are the minutes of a meeting we had with a local mp at our local carers centre, local MPs can be very usefull and powerfull weapons in our battle for carers.

Welcome and Introduction

Steve Pollard welcomed everyone to the meeting before handing over to the Chair, Tony Dennis.

Tony Dennis thanked Tim Farron for agreeing to come and listen to the concerns of carers in South Lakeland. Tony also expressed his thanks to Roberta Corbridge for hosting this meeting.

Tim Farron thanked everyone for attending and voiced his support to carers and hoped he could be a useful link in raising any motions or specific concerns either locally or in Parliament. He appreciated the low esteem all carers must experience due to lack of support from the government. Tim Farron handed back to the Chair who opened up the meeting to the floor for a general debate.

Finance

Tony Dennis introduced the concerns of carers allowance and the unfairness of the current system in which carers are only allowed to earn £95 per week to receive benefits of £49 per week. It was felt that this should be averaged out and not rigidly assessed over every week. Another loophole is that anyone who is receiving a retirement pension cannot claim. It was generally felt that the carers allowance should not be means tested and a fairer system be put in place.

Tim Farron acknowledged the fact that carers are currently saving tax payers £87billion annually.

It was widely known that there were many cases of carers who want to take on a carer’s role but cannot afford to financially. Carers feel angry that there appears to be no recognition by the government of the financial hardship many are experiencing and feel there is a desperate need for a review of the benefits system and financial support offered to them.

Tim Farron to consider looking at a written question in Parliament.

Roberta Corbridge asked if carers allowance was classed as an income replacement allowance or a benefit.

Jane Hall confirmed that she has been verbally informed it is classed as a benefit.

Health Issues

Health issues of carers were raised. It was generally acknowledged that the toll of caring for someone has affected the carers own health at some point in time. All felt they had experienced health problems while recovering from an illness or operation and often have disguised the fact that their own health is suffering in order to continue with their caring roles.

Respite Issues

All experienced difficulties in obtaining respite care. It is acknowledged it can be very difficult to obtain especially in Cumbria where it is means tested. Steve Pollard explained what is meant by means tested. A carer’s grant is not means tested anywhere else in the country. It appears to be a political decision by the local authority.

It was generally noted that a postcode lottery is currently in force for both disabilities and medicines. An example was given how autism is not recognised as a disability. Bolton was mentioned as an example as an area that offers sound support to families.

Tim Farron agreed to look at Bolton’s policy.

Another example of how unfair the system is at present is the availability of the drug Ebixia and how more respite care and support is offered in Lancashire. All felt this is a national problem which needs to be centralised.

These examples show how unfair the system is to date and a passionate discussion followed.

Two crucial areas were highlighted.

1. Respite care is available for some adults, but when caring for children this is only minimal.

2. The ability to pay for respite care. No-one has a bottomless pit of money. The ability to pay can be difficult in a household with a disabled person where more has to be done on less money.

Tim Farron reaffirmed his understanding that a wish list for carers would include a fairer deal within the areas of grants and ability to use respite care more frequently. It was felt there was the need for a larger allowance which could be tapered.

Manifesto

Tim Farron asked what the group would like to see in the updated manifesto.

The consensus of opinion was :

· Fairer treatment – disabilities should be recognised. The main struggle for most carers was that not only were they all caring for loved ones, but they also had to fight the system which was channelling their energies away from their caring role.

Autism was given as an example of a disability which was recognised in other counties apart from Cumbria and Cornwall.

· Recognition – it was acknowledged every carer has a cracking point. All felt the medical services should be more proactive. There was a feeling that the only support available is through certain voluntary organisations.

· It was widely felt that the assessment system is wrong. The family should be assessed as a whole as each member of the family is affected differently. If the government was more proactive there could be financial savings for the country. Tim Farron felt this was a key point in trying to convince the government that this is a good investment.

Tim Farron asked for other carers experiences. An example was given of a family being means tested for a disabled toilet, which deemed to be classed as personal care rather than medical care, which reaffirmed the unfairness within the system.

Steve Pollard mentioned that the interface between social care and health care causes a huge amount of friction.

Everyone felt that carers were not listened to by professionals. All agreed that carers knew the need of the cared for better than the professionals who can sometimes come over as arrogant. The real feeling was that nobody was listening to their needs.

Conclusion

Tim Farron summarised his thoughts as follows:

· There were a number of issues which need to be discussed on both a national and local level.

· The need for better deals for carers.

Tim Farron was very happy to get involved in either visiting a carer or for anyone to contact him.

There was a reminder that the Government’s new strategy for carers is to be issued next week to coincide with Carers’ Week.
In conclusion it was generally felt that carers are undervalued, and more still needs to be done to share the responsibility across the community rather than the family burden it is to date.

Meeting ended 2.15 pm.
Thank you Tony, I found reading it really interesting both in that the primary concerns of carers are the same across the country despite variations in service provision and the variations in service provision between Cumbria and the rest of the country were also interesting. It seems to me that in addition to research into the level of eligibility criteria at which different LAs provide services, research into the way in which those services vary from LA to LA and the way in which they're administered would be illuminating and worthwhile.
Thanks Parsifal
I agree the research into how LAs differ would be really interesting, I beleive that it has to be tackled nationally, and that minimum standard has to be set, that all LAs have to abide by, and not be given the opportunity to decide for themselves what is and isn`t classed as a disability.
Well done Tony and thanks for sharing it with us.Like Annie said its interesting for us all to see what is going on in various parts of the country too.

Annie,I have a list somewhere Image which shows what categories each borough uses for their assessments.Will dig it out later IF I can find it Image

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Didn't you post it on here or did I see it somewhere else? I think it was the former. I really agree with the comment about assessing the whole family not simply the person in need of care, there are many carers who would not be caring without any assistance whatsoever if their capacity to care and the needs of the rest of the family were taken into account. I've been rattling on about this for ages and clearly others feel the same way, perhaps it's something CUK should take up with ministers.