Paul Burstow MP writes… Give carers a break, not a breakdown

Whenever I meet a carer I am humbled by their dedication and touched by the love they show in the face of daily adversity. To be a carer you have to be a pretty special person. It is also likely that you feel your tireless efforts to care for a family member or friend generally go unnoticed.

But the Liberal Democrats want to make sure this silent army of carers is recognised. Every year unpaid carers save our national services an estimated £119 billion a year, which is why we included a manifesto pledge to provide guaranteed respite care for the one million carers who work the longest hours.

Even just a holiday for a couple of days can make the world of difference to someone who must be on hand night and day to carry out their caring duties. I once came across the case of Zak, who not only looked after his autistic sister but his mother who had epilepsy. He was an amazing young man who deserved to be a teenager once in a while. After all, time away from home can help to combat the fact that many carers suffer physical and mental health problems, which places additional strain on the health service.

This is why the Coalition issued a revised national carers strategy and announced £400 million of extra funding to be spent entirely on paying for breaks for carers in 2010. But although we were delighted to announce the funding, we wanted to make sure it was going to those who required it the most.

It turns out that not all the money given to PCTs was getting to carers in need, an unacceptable situation. So last week we announced plans to make sure this would start to happen across the board. All these details were included in the latest NHS Operating Framework, a report that sets out guidance on priorities and plans for the health service for the coming year.

So as of April, local NHS organisations should identify and make public the amount of money they plan to spend on carers and how many breaks this will provide. By September 2012 they must also publicly publish their overall plans for carers.

Tomorrow is Carers’ Rights Day and today I’ve been to Guildford to meet a group of unpaid carers and hear about the challenges they face and the support they need firsthand.

I hope you will join me in recognising the invaluable national resource that carers provide. In doing so we must continue to work hard to ensure this silent army receives the support and funding it deserves.

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  • Dave Warren 1st Dec '11 - 6:49pm

    I have been a full time carer for just over two years now and i have had to struggle continuously to get any

    The local authority Adult social care team, the DWP and the carers allowance unit have all let me down

    As someone who had worked full time for 30 years and paid in to the system i found that when you need
    help it just isn’t there.

    I appreciate Paul has inherited a ‘broken’ set up and he is doing all he can to improve things but fellow
    Lib Dems need to understand how bad things actually are.

    Employers are not set up to help carers who work, the allowance of just over £55 is a pittance, social
    workers haven’t got the time to devote enough time to their cases and if other local authorities are like
    ours here in Reading then there is no reliable respite service in place.

    If the person you are caring for gets additional help from a private care provider with washing for example
    its often unreliable and delivered by workers who are badly treated by those employers.

    My council are having a Carers Rights Day event but at the same time they have failed to address my
    complaint which is now with the Ombudsman.

    The government needs to reform the whole system. I am coming to the conclusion that we need a national care service because local authorities are just not up to the job of providing even minimal support and when they fail there is no penalty for doing so.

    In the meantime i will continue to use my membership of the party to campaign for a fair deal for carers.

  • Janice Clark 1st Dec '11 - 7:10pm

    Nothing changes – I have been campaigning for 20 years, as a Carer who has cared for relatives across the generations.

    It’s sad to have to say this but we are let down regardless of the political colour of the government at any given time. This set is no better than the last or that before it and so on. The NHS continues to fail us because …….they can. All attempts by Carers and Carers organisations to make the NHS accountable for us – fails and there is no real will of governments to change this. I spoke via Radio 4 to Paul Burstow just over a year ago at the Carers UK 2010 Summit – predicting that the money given to the NHS by the Coalition would not reach us – just as that given by the Labour government was spent by health on other areas. When will the politicians learn from the mistakes of those going before them. Unless these Carers budgets are ring fenced they will be spent on anything else and meanwhile we break down. I know Paul Burstow is dedicated to Carers but he will have to get much tougher to make a difference to our lives.

  • It’s a shame Paul didn’t respond to the comments about his post on anti-psychotic drugs:

  • Dave Warren 2nd Dec '11 - 8:39am

    This hasn’t generated much comment but i am going to say a bit more.

    First of all i agree so much with Janice. The minimal amount of support we are supposed to get often doesn’t reach us and although on paper there are services available in reality they are not fit for purpose.

    Secondly one of the reasons i am such a vocal campaigner is that i know there are people in a worst position than me and our so called civilised society is failing them.

    David Cameron and Nick Clegg need to take a personal interest in the whole area of care. Its a broken system which urgently needs fixing.

    Finally on poor communications with Nick which Pat refers to i have raised this with the party numerous times.Its a disgrace that you are effectively unable to raise an issue with him and get a proper response.

    Simply saying we haven’t got the resources isn’t good enough. Do something about it.

  • @Janice, Pat and Dave

    I have the utmost respect for eveything you do as carers, and would just like to add how undervalued the role that you fulfill is viewed. Indeed, the role of carers and how they are viewed by ‘Professionals’ is all to stark, which I will outline.

    My Sister-in-Law is the full time carer to my 81 year old Mother-in-Law – She goes in three times a day 5 days a week, and a couple of times a day over the weekends (my partner who works full time, and who also has caring responsibilities to me! goes in over the weekend to give his sister a bit of respite, and during holidays when he is off) She changes catheter-bags, showers my m-in-law, prepares her food, shops, cleans, takes her to appointments etc.

    She also, has to look after my b-in-law who has a crumbling spine which last week, he had to have a medical assessment by way of a home visit by an ATOS employed Medical Assessor (ATOS, the French company who has had 5, 6, 7 hundred million paid to it by the DWP!) – My b-in-law had a phone call from the assessor to say he was bringing forward the agreed appointment time. My Sis-in-Law who wanted to be present, then had to rush home. When she mentioned it to the Medical Assessor, the inconvenience it had caused by him turning up earlier than agreed, she was told and I quote: ‘You are not a full time carer, you don’t do it for 24 hours a day’! I cannot tell you you how upset and belittled my Sister-in-Law felt AND to be subjected to such an insult in her own home!

    The Medical Assessor was a Dr/GP who worked on ad-hoc basis for ATOS which he let slip he gets paid £130 a visit for – He was there for less than 45 minutes! So one can only assume, it that is his attitude towards my SIster-in-Law, what is his attitude towards any of his patients who are carers and go to him for help etc!

    IMHO, carers are underpaid, over-relied upon by the Government to save it billions, and from the experience I have outlined above, appear to have low worth from so called ‘Caring Professionals’!

  • Carers have rights but they are often ignored. As a carer and carer’s worker I’ve seen horrendous treatment at the hands of the NHS and Social Care services, but carers were too scared to fight in case what little they had was taken away.

    It has to stop.

    But what is happening is that the services that provide an independent voice are being cut. Citizens Advice and Money Advice services run out of money and close because their budgets are cut. No legal aid. The poor increasingly squeezed. And carersare told “you must do more – and while you’re at it go back to work.”

    Do you not think carers do enough? There’s only one place left for the brush as it is.

  • Wow Paul, thanks for being so bloody patronising! As a carer these last 20 years I’ve never failed to be amazed at the two-faced attitudes of past, present (and no doubt future) governments.

    How you can come out with that blog post while supporting the Tory attacks against people who receive DLA is beyond me. The coalition is the worst government I can remember. You know and I know that carers are there to be exploited no matter what.

    Paul, if you support the Tories scrapping of DLA (something Cameron promised would never be done) and replacing it with PIP then you are helping make our (carers) lives even more of a misery.

    Here’s an invitation, take on my caring role for a day and then come out with this sort of crapola.
    And here’s a suggestion, stop talking to self-interested carer charities that keep perpetrating the myth that there are over 6 million carers (there are not)

    Set up the Standing Commission on Carers with REAL carers, not the present out-of-touch with reality/charity employee ones that are there now because they have no idea of our lives.
    The majority of carers see this government for the idiots and liars that they really are and your blog shows you know nothing and will be remembered as the government who vilified the people we carers look after

  • Lorraine Homayon-Jon 7th Feb '12 - 11:08pm

    As a member of this government which has finally anounced that its intentions are to incentivise carers to return to work may i ask for a response from you about who looks after my cared for when i work during the day? could i also ask who will take over the night shift with my cared for when i work during the day? How insulting are your comments of appreciation about carers and their 24/7 roles (we know) when you as part of this coalition which is riding roughshod over the views and concerns of carers and disability charities is actually part of the attack on carers? Would you be bitten spat at and have faecal matter thrown at you for years and then be expected to “work” I would love a response but i know that the crumbs from the non ring fenced table will have to satisfy me and millions of others. Your party like the conservatives have no use of carers except at photo shoots and i wish one day that you would meet with carers who are now contemplating the prospect of putting their loved ones into the care of local authorities because we are so exhausted by our lack of support

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