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Suffering: If fibromyalgia displayed visible signs, this is how a sufferer would look. Imagine how such a person would feel - physically and emotionally - if they were left alone this Christmas. Too much trouble for family; no fair-weather friends left; and a government that won't even investigate if they were found dead after the holidays.

Suffering: Mrs Mike has fibromyalgia which – if it were visible – would look like this (according to the experts).

You don’t get this kind of offer from the Conservatives, Lib Dems or other right-wingers, you know.

The Labour Party is announcing a new package of support to help England’s 5.4 million unpaid family carers.

Liz Kendall MP, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Care and Older People, today set out the party’s plans, if it is elected to government in May.

The package of measures includes:

  • A new duty on the NHS to identify family carers, so they can get the right help and support, and a new right for carers to ask for an annual health check – allowing problems to be identified earlier and prevent costs escalating.
  • A single point of contact with care services for families caring for people with the greatest needs, so they don’t have to battle different parts of the system.
  • Ensuring the funding currently identified for carers’ breaks is properly ring-fenced, to make sure all the money goes to family carers.
  • Consulting with employers, trade unions and carers organisations on how to improve flexible working for family carers, which could include measures such as a new period of ‘adjustment leave’ to help families cope with a short-term crisis.
  • Recognising the transport costs facing family carers, by including family carers in the groups who can be eligible for hospital car parking concessions.
  • Abolishing the bedroom tax – which hits 60,000 carers and penalises them for the extra facilities they need.

Ms Kendall said: “Family life is changing and more and more of us are looking after elderly or disabled relatives. This can often be a real struggle and many families feel pushed to breaking point.

“Too often carers have to battle all the different services to try and get the support they need. One in three family carers who are in paid work have to give up their job or reduce their hours because they can’t get the right help to care or flexible working hours.

“Most unpaid carers don’t have enough time to pay attention to their own health, and many don’t come forward for help or get any breaks. Often people don’t even see themselves as being a carer – they’re just a son, daughter, husband, wife or partner trying to look after the person they love.

“It’s not right that people who do so much get so little in return. We need to improve support for families, and Labour’s package of measures will make a real and practical difference to their lives.”

Experienced Vox Political readers will know that this writer is a carer. Looking at what Ms Kendall said – yes, I had to give up my job to become a full-time carer (not a hardship as the pay and conditions were miserable); no, I don’t get any breaks – the last holiday I had was in 2002; no, I get very little in return – especially from the current government.

There is support already available via the local carers’ service, and it is to be hoped that these proposals – if implemented under a future Labour government, will supplement that service.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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