Hard won new rights for vulnerable young carers are a welcome step forward

Young CarerFor far too long, the needs of hundreds of thousands of young carers who do incredible things to look after and support members of their family have been overlooked. They pay a big price with their school work, their social lives, and very often their own health.

The role of carers at any age is still not valued or recognised anywhere near enough. This is despite the strides Lib Dems in government have made recognising carers needs and, for the first time, establishing the right in legislation to have these needs assessed.

But, as the Care Bill for adults and the Children and Families Bill passed through parliament in tandem, many of us realised that young carers were once again falling through the gaps. They were not covered by the new rights in the Care Bill and were overlooked by the Children and Families Bill.

Thanks to the hard work of the National Young Carers Coalition and others, the government this week announced stronger and clearer rights for young carers and new duties on local authorities to assess need. These are a very important step forward and are the changes called for by the scrutiny committee on the Care Bill which I chaired earlier this year, and for which colleagues in both houses lobbied for before the summer. We argued that young carers must be afforded the same rights as adult carers will now be getting in the Care Bill – and I am pleased to say, ministers agreed.

Getting progress on this issue, along with a commitment to joining up with the Care Bill to ensure a whole-family approach to care is fantastic news for those of us who have spent so long campaigning on the need for a holistic approach. Together, this package of reforms should make a real difference to reduce the burden under which too many young people come close to collapse, and is a welcome recognition that young carers’ wellbeing matter too.

Paul Burstow MP was Care Minister until September 2012 and Chaired the Joint Parliamentary Scrutiny of the draft Care and Support Bill which reported in March 2013.

* Paul Burstow is Liberal Democrat candidate for Sutton and Cheam and was the MP until the dissolution of Parliament on 30th March.

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