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Carers UK spells out its new social contract for carers

21 November 2007

A ground-breaking new study released today (Wednesday 21 November 2007) by Carers UK sets out the design of a new social contract for care which would revolutionise the way care is delivered in the 21st century.

For the first time, a definitive model is presented of what a new social contract for care might look like and who the stakeholders would be, with a full set of policy recommendations designed to create the right environment for the change.

The work, commissioned by Carers UK, has been led by Professor Sue Yeandle from the University of Leeds and is one of six major reports on working age carers, who represent 75 per cent of all carers in Great Britain.¹

Described by Imelda Redmond, Chief Executive of Carers UK, as 'one of the most exciting advances made in our new vision for carers', the findings will contribute to the government's current review of the National Strategy for Carers, and will inform the new Standing Commission on Carers and the promised Green Paper on long term care.

Imelda Redmond continues, "The new social contract goes beyond the traditional view of a contract between the state and the individual. It calls for new commitments which also involve employers, local agencies and communities. We all have a role to play in supporting carers within our communities since care is something that we can all expect to provide and receive at some point in our lives."

Starting with a call for a radical overhaul of the entire infrastructure of support for carers, the study suggests that the new social contract needs to build on the following realities:

Chronically ill and disabled people need care, most of which is provided by carers – i.e. family and friends

The economy needs carers

Replacing all unpaid care with formal care services is both impossible and undesirable

Carers are crucial partners in delivering social care

Carers need independence, income and life choices and should not pay a penalty for the contribution they make.

Professor Yeandle stresses that the new social contract needs to be explicit, detailed and agreed by all parties. She emphasises, "This must involve individuals and families, local communities, employers, voluntary organisations and the state – at both the local and national level. All stakeholders need to be clear about their roles and responsibilities and to agree a core set of values if they are to provide the support that carers need. Demand for care is rising, and as a society we must make caring possible. It is absolutely crucial in enabling ill and disabled people to live as they choose."

The ethical context would need to be clear - recognising and including carers who would be key and non-negotiable partners, to whom all within the infrastructure were committed. There would also need to be a set of legal, regulatory and fiscal frameworks supporting carers.

The research shows that caring carries three main penalties: poorer health, financial strain and social exclusion. To address this, recommendations for each include:

Carers' health

More responsive services in health and social care.

Investment in carers breaks.

Improved GP/community health support for carers.

Information, training and brokerage services for carers.

Carers' economic and financial security

A new advice, guidance and advocacy service on caring and employment.

A wider range of jobs available to those working part-time or flexibly.

Review of the integration of the tax, benefits and pensions system.

Investment in improving access to education, skills and training for carers.

A new specialist SME advisory service for small businesses.

New support/services for those whose caring changes or ends.

Carers' social inclusion and equal rights

Carers identified in all equalities legislation.

A strong statistical evidence-base about carers.

Services which support carers' participation as active citizens.

Extension of the right to request flexible working to all employees.

'Carer-proofing' of local strategic developments and planning processes.

Welfare to work policy tailored to meet carers' needs.

Campaign on carers and employment targeting employers and trade unions.

Imelda Redmond continues,

"We have a big task ahead of us in reshaping existing policy, placing a stronger emphasis on individually tailored support, making appropriate and imaginative use of technological and other innovations – and, crucially, making it possible for carers to provide support without suffering any penalty.

"Meeting these challenges and recommendations will require determination, clear focus and concerted effort, with everyone playing their part. But we know the problem has to be tackled and we are prepared to see this new vision through to give carers an equal chance to lead normal lives."

The launch of this new report coincides with two major events in London on Wednesday 21 November 2007. The first is a meeting of employers organised by Carers UK and Employers for Carers to discuss with Carers Minister, Ivan Lewis and Director of Social Care, David Behan, what employers would like to see in the National Strategy for Carers.

The other, is the first of three deliberative events being held with carers, the public and other stakeholders to consult over the content of the Prime Minister's National Strategy for Carers. The Minister for carers, Ivan Lewis, is planning to speak at this event.

- Ends -

19 November 2007

1 The report is entitled Carers, Employment and Services: time for a new social contract? It was conducted at the University of Leeds and commissioned by Carers UK. The authors are Professor Sue Yeandle and Dr Lisa Buckner.

It is one of a series of publications and draws together the findings of the other reports on the Carers, Employment and Services (CES) Study conducted in 2006-7.

The findings are based on 1,909 responses to the CES national survey, which targeted carers of working age; 134 face-to-face interviews with carers aged 25-64 living in ten selected localities in England, Scotland and Wales; interviews with professionals with responsibility for carer support at the local level; detailed analysis of the 2001 Census; and assessment of a wide range of documentary sources.

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