Lib Dems back carers with £2.6 billion support package in emotional debate

You would think, wouldn’t you, that if the person you had spent your life from childhood caring for died, you would get some help with funeral expenses?

You would think, wouldn’t you, that if the person you had spent your life from childhood for died, you wouldn’t be made homeless?

You would think, wouldn’t you, that if you were willing to take on the responsibility of caring for someone you love, you would automatically get at least some training in how to lift them in a way that didn’t ruin your own health? Or some information regarding your rights as a carer.

Nope.

In an incredibly powerful and emotional debate at Conference, carers described how hard their lives can be. The main motion, proposing a £2.6 billion boost for support for carers, was proposed by Ed Davey, who, of course, has had caring responsibilities throughout his life. As a teenager he cared for his terminally ill mother. As an adult, he cared for his grandparents and, now, his severely disabled son.

Charley Hasted proposed an amendment which added in to the main motion, better provision for respite care, better training and support for carers, removal of the cliff edge of removal of benefits if they should take up employment and faster access to mental health support. In one of the most powerful speeches I have ever heard at Conference, they described how they can’t remember a time when they weren’t a carer. They care for their disabled mother with their sibling. They described how the last time they and their sibling were able to do anything social together was 23 years ago when they went to the cinema as 11 year olds.

They broke down as they described their love for their mother and the fact that they have never had respite care as the arrangements that would be made for her would not meet her needs. Carers are desperate, they said, and need the help set out in the motion.

Charley’s amendment passed with not one single vote against.

Young Liberal Katharine Macy, said that if her mum died tomorrow, she wouldn’t have any idea about how she would pay for the funeral. She described how three people she has cared for her in her life have passed away and the problems that this has caused. Her amendment gives anyone who is eligible for Carer’s Allowance the right to a Funeral Expenses Payment.

The main proposals in the motion which you can read here, are:

  • Raising Carer’s Allowance by £1,000 a year, and expanding the number of carers who are eligible for it.

  • Giving councils emergency funding for respite care so carers can take breaks.

  • Introducing paid Carer’s Leave and requiring employers to make reasonable adjustments for carers.

It was great to see Conference back the proposals so emphatically.

After the debate, Ed Davey said:

This pandemic has shown that we are a nation of carers. But people looking after their loved ones are still too often forgotten and ignored by people in power.

The challenges carers face every day have been made even harder by Covid. Most are having to spend more time looking after loved ones during this pandemic. Most haven’t been able to take a single break since it started. Most are simply exhausted.

We must do far more to support our wonderful carers. The Government should start by immediately raising Carer’s Allowance by £1,000 a year, and providing emergency funding for local councils to give carers a break.

The Liberal Democrats will stand up for carers and lead the way to a more caring society as we emerge from this pandemic.

Way back in the mists of time, when I got involved in the SDP as a teenager, I enthusiastically subscribed to the party newspaper The Social Democrat. The front page story on the very first issue I ever received was about carers and how our councillors in Tameside were supporting them. It’s always been a key issue for us and yet nearly 40 years later, we still hear that carers are desperate because nobody else will champion their needs.We

We can be very proud of the debate that we had today.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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15 Comments

  • Brad Barrows 20th Mar '21 - 3:20pm

    Just a pity the motion did not suggest where the money to pay for this policy would come from. Would be from a cut somewhere else is public spending? If so, where. Would it come from an increase in taxation? If so, which tax would increase. Or would it come from even more borrowing?

    Serious political parties have to do more than call for more spending for everything – they also have to identify how it would be paid for.

  • A proposal of an increase of £1000 a year is a start, but lets be honest here, it does not go anywhere near far enough.

    Carers allowance is currently £67.25 a week if you care for someone for at least 35 hours a week ( Many provide much more than this) and providing your earnings are below £128 a week, which even someone on minimum wage equates to 14.5 hrs a week, broken down that is the equivalent of earning £3.94 a Hr. Nobody should be expected to survive on that.

    Someone requiring at least 5 hrs a day of care is quite clearly, someone who is suffering from substantial disabilities and needs help with things like cooking, bathing, shopping and domestic help, were this care not being given by the “carer” they would more than likely be requiring the input of social services ( costing far more money) and or face deteriorating health conditions which would have longer term implications for the state in terms of available NHS resources and funds

    We are unfairly trapping carers in a life of poverty, many of whom are women bringing up children along with their caring responsibilities.
    They cannot choose to forfeit carers allowance by working more hours or even doing full time hours along side their 35hr a week ( there are only so many hours in the day)

    Carers Allowance may benefit middle class Britain where one spouse is on a good income and the other is in a position to be able to chose not to work or take reduced hours, but lets not pretend that it is anywhere near adequate for lower income Britain where this Benefit is trapping people in the worse type of poverty.

    I am glad that the Liberal Democrats are taking this up and is a priority for the party, especially highlighting other issues carers face like inadequate respite.

    But the party must be bolder and go further , we believe in equality, therefore we should believe in equal pay for “carers” many of whom are taking over the role from the state and saving the tax payer Billions of pounds

  • Brad
    The money can come from cancelling the building of a tunnel from Scotland to Northern Ireland and other unnecessary projects.

  • Nonconformistradical 20th Mar '21 - 8:23pm

    “The money can come from cancelling the building of a tunnel from Scotland to Northern Ireland and other unnecessary projects.”
    Seconded

  • @ Manfarang “The money can come from cancelling the building of a tunnel from Scotland to Northern Ireland and other unnecessary projects”.

    Or it could have been set up when the Liberal Democrats were in Government with a Junior Minister with responsibility for welfare etc.,. Maybe he was distracted by the cuts the party agreed to.

  • Brad Barrows 20th Mar '21 - 11:18pm

    @ Manfarang, Nonconformistradical
    That would be a good source of funds if any had actually been allocated to that particular idea…

  • Joseph Bourke 20th Mar '21 - 11:59pm

    The HofC library paper on carers allowance notes ” Issues frequently raised in relation to Carer’s Allowance in recent years include the fact that Carer’s Allowance cannot be paid in addition to the Retirement Pension (and certain other benefits), and the amount of benefit payable in comparison with other income replacement benefits. The difficulties carers face combining their caring duties with paid work or studying are also a frequent source of complaint.
    Debate on these issues often takes place within the context of the wider issue of whether Carer’s Allowance should remain an income replacement benefit, or whether it should be intended to cover additional costs that carers incur.” https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/sn00846/#:~:text=Carer%E2%80%99s%20Allowance%20%E2%80%93%20formerly%20known%20as%20Invalid%20Care,payable%20to%20carers%20of%20sick%20and%20disabled%20people.

    The allowance was £55.55 and has generally been uprated in line with CPI since then with the payment rising to £67.25 for 2020-21. The allowance is an “income replacement” benefit. It is intended to provide a measure of income-maintenance for people unable to do full-time paid work because of their caring responsibilities. As such it would seem to make a lot of sense to align the payment with other income-replacement benefits such as JSA, income support or the universal credit basic allowance as part of the party’s proposals for a guaranteed minimum income.
    Universal provision for all, as with the NHS and comprehensive education, is a means of locking middle-class taxpayers into the welfare state and ensures welfare does not again become “a poor service for poor people” as it was before Beveridge.

  • Peter Martin 21st Mar '21 - 7:03am

    Brad Barrows asks the usual question of : “where the money to pay for this policy would come from?”

    He lists three possibilities: Spending cuts elsewhere, Tax Rises and More Borrowing.

    He doesn’t consider that, as extra money is spent into the economy, the Govt’s revenue will also increase. ALL government revenue comes from money first created by government itself.

    So we can say:
    1) No Spending by Govt = No Revenue
    2) Too Little Spending = Too Little Revenue
    3) Too Much Spending = Too Much Revenue

    Having too much revenue isn’t, though, a good thing, It means the economy is likely to be overheating and we’ll have an inflation problem because there won’t be sufficient real resources available in the economy to support activity at an ultra high level.

    So the question that “serious political parties” should be asking is if there are sufficient resources available in the economy to enable the Govt to better support carers without causing an inflation problem.

  • Joseph Bourke 21st Mar '21 - 12:52pm

    Serious political parties understand that demographic changes are increasing the dependency ratio and an aging population will put increasing demands on the output of a proportionally contracting working population. There are longstanding staffing shortages and unfilled vacancies in both nursing and social care. It seems likely these gaps will only be filled by bringing in migrant workers.
    The American version of the OBR, the Congressional budget office publishes data on their long-term budget outlook https://www.cbo.gov/publication/56598. They write:
    “- Debt. By the end of 2020, federal debt held by the public is projected to equal 98 percent of GDP. The projected budget deficits would boost federal debt to 104 percent of GDP in 2021, to 107 percent of GDP (the highest amount in the nation’s history) in 2023, and to 195 percent of GDP by 2050.
    High and rising federal debt makes the economy more vulnerable to rising interest rates and, depending on how that debt is financed, rising inflation. The growing debt burden also raises borrowing costs, slowing the growth of the economy and national income, and it increases the risk of a fiscal crisis or a gradual decline in the value of Treasury securities.”

    “- Spending. After the effects of increased spending associated with the pandemic dissipate, spending as a percentage of GDP rises in CBO’s projections. With growing debt and higher interest rates, net spending for interest nearly quadruples in relation to the size of the economy over the long term, accounting for most of the growth in total deficits. Also increasing are spending for Social Security (mainly owing to the aging of the population) and for Medicare and the other major health care programs (because of rising health care costs per person and, to a lesser degree, the aging of the population).”

    The UK is in a broadly similar position to the USA with respect to long-term pressures on public spending, but without the exorbitant privilege that comes as a consequence of the dominance of the dollar as the global reserve currency and US Treasuries as the ultimate safe haven asset in times of financial crisis.

  • Peter Martin 21st Mar '21 - 6:06pm

    @ Joseph Bourke,

    “There are longstanding staffing shortages and unfilled vacancies in both nursing and social care. It seems likely these gaps will only be filled by bringing in migrant workers.”

    At one time trainee nurses were all given some accommodation and were also paid a wage. Not a lot but it was enough to get by on. Now they have to do three or four years years at university and rack up their own debts.

    The government isn’t under any real pressure to be more supportive. They know they can make up the numbers by recruiting overseas and it costs nothing.

    “High and rising federal debt makes the economy more vulnerable to rising interest rates”

    The relatively high, at least for peacetime, US debt has occurred at the same time that interest rates have fallen to near zero. It’s the same in the UK too. The dollar is the monopoly issue of the US Federal govt. It’s their IOU. So they don’t have to worry about borrowing extra if they run short. Borrowing your own IOUs is a meaningless concept. Think about it.

    If I borrow something tangible from you, say a bag of sugar, I can give you an IOU for the bag of sugar. If I need to borrow another bag it doesn’t make any sense for me to ask if I can borrow my own IOU back. You’d just expect another one to replace it.

    But you could lend it to someone else who was prepared to trust me to make good on it. That might not be so easy! 🙂

    As always, I accept that just because the USA always can do this it doesn’t mean they always should. They have to assess the inflation risks.

  • Peter Martin,

    yes, our local hospital used to have nurses accommodation on-site but it was sold off for development Part of it is social housing but there is no nursing accommodation now. Our local university has a vibrant nursing training program but it is heavily reliant on first generation African and Asian migrants for recruitment. For whatever reason, there isn’t the same interest in the vocation that there used to be among young English, Irish, Scots and Welsh women.
    The counties I have lived and worked in are the UK, Ireland, the USA and Japan (with short stints in Brussels and Mexico). Each has its own unique economic features. Ireland is reliant on foreign investment particularly from the US and has had its housing boom and crash. Japan is a major exporter and has a high net investment position and hence a relatively low net debt position. Japan’s public borrowing is funded by a high domestic savings rate among its elderly population including its public pension fund. In their case they really do owe the money to themselves.The USA has the petro-dollar (the world’s reserve country) and a vast domestic economy that attracts investment from all over the world. The UK has the City and a number of major multi-national businesses. However, sterling is a minor reserve currency compared to the dollar or Euro. If the only way to fund borrowing is to rely on the central bank as the ‘market-maker of last resort’ that is not a sustainable economic strategy. Outside of recessions, borrowing needs to be directed to Investment. Investment creates savings and drives the productivity enhancements that allow a proportionally smaller workforce to improve both their own living standards and the population that are dependent on the output of the workforce.

  • Joseph Bourke 22nd Mar '21 - 12:04am

    Peter Martin,

    you end your comment above writing “They have to assess the inflation risks.”

    This FT article https://www.ft.com/content/539618f8-b88c-3125-8031-cf46ca197c64 sets out what that involves from the perspective of three MMT economists and what they consider inflation to be. It does not seem to be the commonly used narrow definition of a prolonged period of general increases in prices associated with a fall in the purchasing value of money or more generally demand pull inflation. Rather it apears to be focused on cost push inflation for which it advocates regulatory and price controls.
    “First, when we suggest that a budget constraint be replaced by an inflation constraint, we are not suggesting that all inflation is caused by excess demand. Indeed, from our view, excess demand is rarely the cause of inflation.”
    “Second, we do not believe that any and all inflation that does result from excessive demand can and should be addressed by higher taxes. This is a distortion of our view, as years of publications can attest. When MMT says that a major role of taxes is to help offset demand rather than generate revenue, we are recognising that taxes are a critical part of a whole suite of potential demand offsets, which also includes things like tightening financial and credit regulations to reduce bank lending, market finance, speculation and fraud.”
    “Third, when we do advocate using tax increases to address inflationary pressure, we are not suggesting that Congress attempt to raise taxes in real time after inflation has already emerged. Indeed, our approach is precisely intended to avoid a situation in which Congress merely spends without paying attention to inflation dynamics until it is too late. Thus, we argue varying tax rates and other inflation offsets should be included in the budgeting process from the outset.” This last point is a sensible and responsible approach. It’s an anticipatory, forward thinking inflation management strategy, and MMT should emphasize this far more in its headline policy approach. I certainly haven’t noticed it before.

  • Peter Martin 22nd Mar '21 - 8:16am

    @Joe,

    I’ve just checked and the starting salary for 16 yr old trainee in the army is nearly £16k p.a. There’s the prospect of continuing education too. It’s not all square bashing these days! I’m not saying there is anything wrong with this, but if we can encourage our young people to join the military with what looks like a generous package surely we can do better for those who wish to make a public contribution in a different way by entering the medical profession.

    Is it too cynical to suggest that we encourage our young people to be soldiers rather than doctors and nurses because we don’t have a French style foreign legion?

    The point about the advantageous reserve currency status of the USA is overrated. It can actually cause problems of a too highly valued US$ which makes US industry uncompetitive. Someone like Trump then comes along and taps into the resultant disgruntlement of US workers.

    The euro isn’t a reserve currency in any sense. To earn euros the R.O.W. has to export more to the EU than it imports. Then the R.O.W. will have to spare euros to act as a reserve. But that’s not an easy thing to do because the EU doesn’t want that. If they wanted to be like the US and allow foreign exporters to earn a pile of euros, they of course could.

    The point about Ireland is easily explained by the EU’s fiscal rules. Lots of rules about public debt. No rules at all on private debt. So if the private sector is happy to borrow and spend, big time, the economy goes gangbusters. If it doesn’t, the fiscal rules (if they are enforced) don’t allow the govt to take up the slack. The only way for the economy to recover is to run a net export surplus which provides the money to keep the economy going. Which is fine for those who can manage to do that but arithmetic does unfortunately dictate that on a global scale there has to be the net importers too. So the EU does need the UK and USA to fulfil that role more than they care to admit.

  • Peter Martin 22nd Mar '21 - 8:32am

    cont/

    I’m not sure if its an advantage for a country to owe the money to itself. ie to its own population. It’s possible that there will be a widespread desire to spend too much too quickly. This will cause both political and economic problems. On the other hand if the creditors are based somewhere else the desire to spend their accumulated assets can be managed by negotiation between governments. In any case what would Germany want to do its supply of foreign reserves? It would have to start becoming a net importer if it spent them.

    The point about inflation is valid. No one has all the answers. Neoliberals are only concerned about inflation as measured by a basket of groceries and the level of wages. They positively welcome asset price inflation. Controlling inflation by monetary means has to be done after the event too. There is always going to be a reliance on forecasting to get the right policies. This is why the forecasters need to be held to account and why they need to do much better.

  • Joseph Bourke 22nd Mar '21 - 12:56pm

    Peter Martin,

    the US dollar being the global reserve currency does run up against the Triffin dillema https://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/1011/how-the-triffin-dilemma-affects-currencies.aspx
    After the Plaza Accord in 1985 devalued the US dollar, Japan responded with monetary easing, fiscal stimulus, and financial reform and quickly entered what was arguably the biggest bubble the world had ever seen.
    When the bubble popped, Japan’s central bank had to offset the deflationary impact and an imminent collapse of the banking sector over a period of three decades. This was done primarily by injecting bank reserves to the system. Expanding the monetary base as Japan has done is very different from expanding the broad money supply with increased bank lending or persistent large fiscal deficits.
    A persistent rise in broad money supply tends to be inflationary. An increase in base money on its own, without corresponding growth in broad money, doesn’t tend to be inflationary. As the Japanese government levered up and ran moderately large deficits, their private sector deleveraged. Japanese broad money supply grew more slowly than average government deficits.
    What the United States is doing since 2020, and to a lesser extent what other countries (including Europe and the UK) are doing since 2020, is nothing like what Japan did for decades from the mid-90s through 2019, which was to run moderate deficits while their banks weren’t lending, and thus just expand their base money without expanding their broad money by very much.
    There is currently a level of broad money supply growth in the United States and elsewhere, which hasn’t been seen in developed economies since the 1970s and 1940s. If that stays sitting in savings accounts and is spent gradually over ten or 20 years, it may not be much of an issue. But if there is a roaring twenties type speculative frenzy then I think we know what to expect. Perhaps no one has all the answers. For the UK, however, I think the current account deficit will have to rebalance one way or the other and income and wealth inequality (particularly with respect to housing) will need to be addressed via the tax and benefit system.

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