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Refresh of the National Carers Strategy

25 November 2010
Carers UK responds to the Government's launch of a refresh of the national Carers Strategy, launched at the Carers UK Summit

Carers UK response to refresh of the National Carers Strategy, launched at the Carers UK Summit today:

Commenting on the Government's refresh of the National Carers Strategy, Carers UK Chief Executive Imelda Redmond CBE said:

"We welcome this refresh of the National Carers Strategy which sets out an important framework for supporting carers through technology, health and social care services and in the workplace as they juggle work and care.

Our health and social care services would collapse without the unpaid care and support provided by the UK's 6 million carers. We know that, in difficult financial times, the country must invest in families and cannot afford to see carers undermined by cuts to services or the benefits they and their families receive."

The Strategy refresh contains a number of key measures:

The Government has announced £6m in new funding for training to support GPs to identify and support carers. GPs are often the first port of call when families experience illness or disability. Carers tell us that getting early advice and information from their GPs can transform their experiences of caring by allowing them to access support from the outset. There is a real lottery in the support different GPs provide to carers, and we hope the additional funding in the Strategy will help to ensure that all carers get timely advice and support from their family doctors.

The Government will also consult on extending flexible working rights to all employees, which would benefit an additional 75,000 carers who currently miss out on these rights. Flexible working has produced a step-change in workplace culture, and allowed many carers to continue juggle work alongside caring. We warmly welcome this move, as with at least 3 million people already juggling paid work with caring for an ill or disabled loved-one, how we support carers in the workplace is one of the key challenges of our generation.

One in six carers has given up work or reduced their hours to care, often resulting in financial hardship, isolation and permanent damage to carers' employment prospects. We are pleased that the Government has listened to employers and carers, and included a strong emphasis in the Strategy on working with employers to promote new, modern ways of supporting their workforces.

However, not all carers are able to combine caring for loved-ones with paid work. We know that over 1 million people already care for over 50 hours a week, and that more and more families are taking on heavy caring responsibilities which make it impossible to work. We have welcomed the additional £400m announced last week to provide breaks for carers – it is now crucial that the Government develops robust mechanisms to ensure that every penny of this money reaches carers.

We are pleased to see that the Government has taken forward Carers UK's recommendations around the key role technology can play in supporting carers. The Government has announced the launch of a new DotGovLabs Innovation Hub to explore digital support for carers. We are already seeing technological innovation online and in telecare technology breaking down barriers which cause carers' isolation and saving carers time and stress by cutting down bureaucracy.

Carers benefits were not part of this review of the Carers Strategy, but the recent Welfare Reform White Paper did acknowledge the inadequacy and unsuitability of Carer's Allowance. What happens to carers benefits is a key priority for carers, who want financial support which truly recognises the contribution they make, but does not draw carers into regressive means-testing. Carers UK is calling on the Government to urgently set out a clear direction for reform. This has been postponed for too long.

Finally, the success of the Strategy rests on good investment in the social care system. If local authorities pass on cuts to care and support services families will be pushed to breaking point and many of the welcome measures in this Strategy will be undermined.

ENDS

Contact:

Steve McIntosh

Policy and Public Affairs Officer

Carers UK

Tel: 0207 378 4937

Mob: 07875724088

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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