Further cuts to welfare benefits are an outrage
Last week saw the Carers Trust policy team wending our weary way back from Birmingham at the close of Conservative Party conference, after 3 weeks of trying to get our message across to local and national politicians and party members.
As members of the Care and Support Alliance, Carers Trust has been lobbying hard to make sure that the new Care and Support Bill promotes the rights of carers, and the draft Bill does make significant progress towards this (although there are some issues with how it affects young carers). There were positive noises from all three parties and their three main leaders on these issues – Andy Burnham for Labour as well as Norman Lamb for the Lib Dems and Jeremy Hunt the new Secretary of State – that this is an important issue. They all said a great deal about the importance of integrating health and social care – the holy grail we’ve been pursuing for years - although I’m not sure any of them came up with anything which makes me confident this will be achieved. All three said we need a cross-party approach to the future funding of social care, whether this is through what Andrew Dilnot proposed or otherwise. It’s too important an issue to play politics with, and I hope they will follow through with what they say.
The three conferences had very different feels to them. The Liberal Democrats, in the howling gales and rain of blustery Brighton felt a bit lost and despondent. Labour felt more positive and confident than they have done in the last couple of years – perhaps reflecting a feeling that they are beginning to find themselves again. The Conservative feel was quite strident and very much felt like they meant to push forward.
Conservative conference for me, and anything positive that was said about how we can get services to work better for carers, was totally overshadowed by George Osborne’s speech, where he stated the Tories’ intention to cut further swathes of the order of £10 billion off the benefits budget. Cameron backed him up, and tried to make us feel like he’s just an ordinary bloke – “There is nothing complicated about me” he said, “ I believe in working hard, caring for my family and serving my country.”
Well other people believe that too, but sometimes they can’t work because they’re caring, or because they’re disabled, or because there aren’t any jobs. For carers, family and friends come first, often way before their own needs. Often they can’t work because they’re putting someone else first, saving the country billions in care costs. Carers are not, as George Osborne suggested, lying in bed doing nothing expecting others to pay their way for them. It’s an insult to suggest it.
Carers can’t live on nothing. There’s only so far you can stretch a budget, and with costs increasing the Government are even talking about not increasing benefits in line with inflation. Many people are living right at the margins already.
This is no way to treat people. Further cuts to benefits for carers and disabled people are an outrage.
Find out more about the hardest Hit campaign against welfare benefit cuts here: http://thehardesthit.wordpress.com/