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Carers UK's response to the Queen's Speech

26 May 2010
What the Coalition Government's legislative programme means for carers.

Carers UK welcomes a number of measures announced in the Queen's Speech but is also sending a strong message to Government that measures to get people back to work must be sensitive to carers' needs.

Carers UK welcomes two measures which will not be subject to legislation but are nevertheless positive – the extension of the right to request flexible working to all workers and the establishment of an independent Commission on social care.

Most carers currently have the right to request flexible working but up to 79,000 do not because of the way that the complex definition of carer has been put together. This will mean that there is a level playing field for all carers and others. The evidence from business is that flexible working makes economic and social sense and, most importantly, it gives many carers the opportunity of staying longer in the labour market – vital for short and long term income.

Carers UK has also welcomed the establishment of an independent commission on social care to take forward the future funding proposals on social care. It is a critical issue about how we tackle the challenges of our changing and ageing society. Care is vital, not only for people's dignity, good care services also enable families to provide some care and keep working. This will become even more important if the proposed Pensions and Savings Bill results in a rise in the state pension age.

Carers UK is responding with a mixed reaction to the Welfare Reform Bill. Carers want to see the benefits system simplified since its complexity often prevents people from finding out about their entitlements, but it must be done in a way that recognises carers additional costs.

Other elements of the Welfare Reform Bill will cause carers more concern. Many carers in receipt of benefit provide high levels of care and work is difficult or impossible to undertake. Carers currently have the discretion not to undertake work, if they do not want to, because it is recognised that caring for a disabled or older person is a huge task and one that the state would have to undertake otherwise – often at greater cost. It is vital that any legislation takes account of their needs.

Carers UK also urged the Government to ensure that carers were also involved alongside patients in any reform of the NHS. The last decade has improved our understanding of the important role that carers play in keeping disabled, older people and chronically ill people healthier and living longer in the community. It is vital that they too have a voice and place in any changed structures. The detail of the plans are also important to see whether they deliver real change for carers and their families.

The bigger and longer term concern, however, is the impact of the deficit reduction programme on families who provide care and who rely on public services in order to lead their daily lives, to work, get the weekly shopping, see relatives. It is vital that any efficiencies and budget reductions consider the impact on carers, their family life and their communities.

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