Labour pledges new support for family carers

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.

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  1. Peter Buckley January 15, 2015 at 4:19 pm - Reply

    I welcome the announcement and take comfort in the comments made by the Shadow Minister. I feel that the role of family carer has been grossly undervalued by politicians of all sides for a long time and particularly over the Coalition’s term of office anso this is a welcome change of direction. However many carers like myself are reaching retirement age and upon reaching that point ,we no longer qualify for Carers’ Allowance even though our caring responsibility carries on. We need to address this in the package proposed by the labour Party.

  2. Lynda Booth January 15, 2015 at 4:20 pm - Reply

    I’m severely disabled and the care package I’m supposed to have is extremely expensive so I opted out. To nominate a family member as a carer is all well and good but the money they would receive is subsequently taken from my benefits, so in effect the government doesn’t pay a penny.

    This perhaps, from the labour party, may be the same.

    The reality of ‘care’ is just a pipe-dream for a lot of people, because benefits alone do not even cover rent, heating, lighting, transport etc.

    I have worked since leaving school, but now I’m on the scrap-heap. Hey ho!

    • Mike Sivier January 15, 2015 at 10:08 pm - Reply

      How does that work – the money your carer gets being taken from your benefits? I get Carer’s Allowance but Mrs Mike still gets DLA and ESA. It strikes me that something is seriously amiss with the way somebody has arranged your benefits.

      • Sasson Hann January 16, 2015 at 6:59 am - Reply

        I can’t be absolutely sure about this Mike, but I think that if you get the ‘severe disability’ element of ESA – which gives you to top rate over and above what you generally see as the highest rate – a relative can’t claim Carer’s Allowance to look after you as well (the severe disability element is around the same amount as carer’s allowance).

        I didn’t have a family member to look after me and had to seek LA care, so my severe disability element and about half of my DLA used to pay for that care, as well as private care (that I didn’t need to have until the LAs started removing elements of the care package).

        Alternatively, I could have opted out like the lady above and arranged help in the house as and when I needed it, but I needed it all of the time and couldn’t possibly have funded that care out of my ESA and DLA,

  3. Thomas M January 15, 2015 at 4:37 pm - Reply

    A very good idea and I could see Labour genuinely following through on this.

  4. BizzieLizzie January 15, 2015 at 6:11 pm - Reply

    It would be helpful if they would also increase carers allowance to a more realistic level. £61.35 for full time caring is derisory. We carers must be saving the government millions.

    • paulrutherford8 January 16, 2015 at 2:03 am - Reply

      Its actually somewhere approaching £119BILLION if all the ‘care hours’ were added up. That is roughly enough to fund a second NHS.

      Staggering but true.

  5. casalealex January 15, 2015 at 6:13 pm - Reply

    This is a very sensible and much needed support. I am 76yrs old and have been my Mum’s main carer for 8 years. Mum is now 95 and has a progressive form of dementia, and being she is bedridden, and unable to do anything for herself, we had carers looking after Mum in her own home until two years ago. I did everything for Mum, who lived only a couple of minutes from me. I visited her nearly everyday. Eventually, Mum had to go into a nursing home, (unfortunately due to abuse by the home carers).
    One of the reasons I am pleased with this proposed support for family carers, is because, due to being a state pensioner myself, I was not entitled to claim any financial assistance at all, and I felt it was unfair that elderly people. who were looking after their older parents, often had their own medical problems too. Family carers have saved governments a lot of public money, by taking on a task which, although they do so out of love and respect for the life their parents have given them; can at times be debilitating for the themselves. I would also mention that I knew nothing at all about dementia until I saw the effects of it on my Mum, I have learned a lot, and have come to realise that dementia is a disease of many degrees, as each person must be seen as an individual, and must be treated as a specific condition to that one person.

  6. Tisme's Cares January 15, 2015 at 10:26 pm - Reply

    Thank you for the news Mike – as a carer myself – this is timely indeed. Well done Labour!

    • Mike Sivier January 15, 2015 at 10:54 pm - Reply

      Remember – it’s just a plan and will only go into operation if Labour wins the election.

      • Tisme's Cares January 15, 2015 at 10:59 pm - Reply

        Yes – I just posted on my Carey Kay FB wall that election promises are just that. Look at what the Tories promised before the last election? (which you have covered so eruditely over the past few years) And how that turned out? Election promises are not legally binding sadly :(

      • paulrutherford8 January 16, 2015 at 2:15 am - Reply

        Tisme, as a carer myself, I am fully convinced that Labour *will* carry their proposal[s] regarding care out. I’m also fairly confident they may go further, once they have begun to make positive changes to the ‘economy’ and are able to find more money.

        I say this because I’ve been told that part of this policy [the second bulleted point above], has come about after some private, serious and very ‘frank’ discussions between at least one Labour MP and ‘representative’ carers.

        If Labour did win the election and were then found to have been making ‘false promises’, I am also certain that would contribute to their following in the footsteps of the LibDems… to [relative], political oblivion.

  7. paulrutherford8 January 16, 2015 at 2:35 am - Reply

    I had to laugh when I saw an ad on this page for private health insurance “from 85p a day” which would allow me to avoid NHS queues!

    Well, it was either laugh or slash my wrists in despair. I chose the former option ;)

    • Mike Sivier January 16, 2015 at 11:18 am - Reply

      Don’t slash your wrists. As I said before to another commenter, they don’t realise their ads are supporting someone who writes in opposition to what they do.
      In fact, I think everybody should click on those adverts because then they have to pay me more money. You don’t have to buy anything – just the click brings in the revenue. ;-)

  8. paulrutherford8 January 16, 2015 at 1:50 pm - Reply

    Of course!! Will do. I shake anyway & often have uncontrolled clicks ;) I forgot about making money from click-thru’s.

    Shall cliick away!

    • Mike Sivier January 16, 2015 at 2:04 pm - Reply


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