Party leaders call carers “unsung heroes”, but that’s just the start…

Carers – the nations’ unsung heroes. That was the message given out to the country last night by the three party leaders during their televised debate. The last five minutes focused on social care, and carers in particular, with the Lib Dems taking the opportunity to highlight their £500m commitment to provide breaks for carers. The party leaders should be congratulated for bringing carers into the national debate.

the leaders debate on ITV

Let's not kid ourselves that singing carers' praises will solve the huge issues we face

My mobile went berserk immediately as people recognised that such a high profile debate was great news for carers. However, media coverage and political debate will only be worth something if carers’ lives are improved as a result.

In my first ever blog I said how it was wrong to think that there was one single magic bullet that would solve all of the problems carers experience. Most carers desperately need a break; others need financial support; some would like to combine work with caring; many cry out for emotional support; whilst training carers in first aid and handling medications will make lives a lot easier for some.

We are changing as a society. Life expectancy is increasing, families are smaller and more geographically dispersed, and it’s likely that both parents now work. This means an increasing need to care for relatives with a decreasing ability to do so.

At the moment we do not enable people to care, we expect them to do so. Taking carers for granted translates into a lack of support which causes carers to suffer mental or physical breakdowns. But given the issues noted above, it is imperative that we get help to families and friends who want to care.

How we do that is bigger than just a five minute debate. It is not just the responsibility of politicians, or even carers to lead this. It is something that will affect all of us and our families. We have a duty to them to sort this now before it’s too late.

Carers – the nations’ unsung heroes? Yep, but let’s not kid ourselves that singing their praises will solve the huge issues we face. You can read a statement from The Princess Royal Trust for Carers Chief Executive, Carole Cochrane, here.

Take care,



April 16, 2010 - Posted by | General Election, Uncategorized | , , ,


  1. Once again we are deemed the “unsung heroes” – I am so fed up with the patronising, pat-on-the-head approach to carers. The Lib Dems offer of one week break for carers who are caring over 50 hours a week is insulting quite frankly – one week in 52 is a mere drop in the ocean of what is really needed. Carers are entitled to live fulfilling lives (quote from the Carers Equal Opportunities Act 2004) NOT be expected to be in a caring role that effectively writes off their right to a life of their own and impacts detrimentally on their health, finances, work and social activities. It is shameful … By the way David Cameron quoted carers as saving the government £60 billion – a gross underestimation – it is more like £90 billion. Jill Pay

    Comment by Jill Pay | April 16, 2010 | Reply

  2. I really do believe that the politicians listened to what was said at the “Building Society to Care” event I almost felt those very words were quoted from that meeting. It shows how getting all the politicians from the different parties round a table is worth while. What next Gordon & PRT lets have more to push the message.

    Comment by Daphne Sanderson | April 16, 2010 | Reply

  3. I agree with Jill Pay; the comment of carers being the ‘unsung’ heroes’ is rather patronising. I also very much endorse the comment regarding carers having the right to fulfilling lives of their own, because, as it stands now, being a carer (in my experience) this right is taken away from us. Personal relationships are affected, time and energy to give to family and friends is very limited, as is time to oneself. How to find the time or energy to study or do paid work is very hard indeed. Being in a demanding caring role takes over your life.

    On a more positive note the fact that politicians are now listening and facing up to carers’ problems is a good start. We now have to wait to see if the promises they make will be honoured?

    The message has to be ‘hammered home’ that carers have had enough of being invisible. We want a better deal!

    Comment by Anne Yavary | April 16, 2010 | Reply

  4. Once again were patted on the head and told we are ” unsung heroes”, we are also informed that a “care system” needs to be set up.
    Give us a CARERS ALLOWANCE and do not link it to other benefits and then take it back off other benefits.

    Recognise there is a care system in place and it needs not only the politcians to support us but also the tax payers of this country who for decades have have been benefitting from billions of pounds savings for a system they have never had to pay for.

    Comment by Taras Kurylak | April 16, 2010 | Reply

  5. Until such time when politicians fully understand that ” Social Care ” is undertaken in the majority by carers , and , focus their attentions on supporting carers as the first priority ( Even by changing the Law to reflect the special status of carers ) , nothing worthwhile will be achieved.

    The Status Quo will continue , with Society needing to rely on carers to provide the care needed …. much like the old Roman empire using it’s slaves to sustain itself ? Carers will continue to have no protection afforded to the many , having to juggle caring with perceived poverty just to provide the support that Society itself refuses to support.

    Comment by Paul | April 17, 2010 | Reply

  6. I too noticed the gaff re the amount Carers value is costed at – £60 billion Dave? It’s a bit worrying that they find it hard to do their sums!

    I found the “unsung heroes” bit stuck in my throat. I never asked to be a hero; I didn’t actually choose to care but because the care was just not there for my relatives I was expected to care. Despite the fact that I am in a five generation family with a part time job; providing child care for my grandchildren; getting older myself; as well as existing caring responsibilities, more was expected of me. I am neither an unsung hero or a super hero – So enough of the praise – Where’s the support? Oh and where’s the cash?

    Comment by Janice Clark | April 19, 2010 | Reply

  7. Morning Gordon,

    We have now had 2 debates wherein carers have been mentioned but nothing concrete proposed.Just more words,and more words and more words….etc.Whilst the importance of the parties bringing carers in to the debate has to be recognised, the actual success of it will be measured by what they deliver. So far it has been a big fat ZERO.

    I agree with the others in that carers are not unsung heroes.They are people who through Love/circumstance/duty take on a responsibilty that to date no party has fully recognised.

    Any new National Care Service must build on the strong foundation that family carers provide and NOT be something top/down. Your own research lately re PCTS shows money for carers is not reaching them. As cutbacks increase, more and more pressure will be placed on families.

    Carers are exploited, their services taken for granted and yet they are the backbone that supports both the NHS and social services.Till they are given full recognition and supported, none of the proposals to date will be sustainable. The political parties know that and yet still do nothing.

    Families must be central to any new system

    Comment by Rosemary | April 23, 2010 | Reply

    • Hi Rosemary,

      You are right to say that the debates on carers and social care have maybe not provided the detail that we would have wanted, however it is good that is it as least forming part of the national debate and hopefully it will push them into thinking more about the issues.

      In fairness to the parties, I have to disagree with you about nothing being offered to carers. I think the Lib Dems would dispute that £500m in personal budgets for carers equals zero. Also, we do hear from carers that improving support for the person they are caring for would help them and Labour’s proposals to create a National Care Service do contain various measures that I think would improve support for people and lower the cost for many people too. Finally, we also hear of carers using their savings to pay for care and this can include the very high costs of residential care – £24k p/a. The Conservative policy of paying £8000 to cover all residential care fees would mean a huge saving for many people.

      I don’t think any of the parties have all the answers but each is offering something, which is better than nothing. We just have to keep pushing them to do more.

      One final comment – I completely agree with you that any reform of social care can only work by supporting the very people who do most of the caring – carers. This must be our priority. Thank you for this comment Rosemary as it’s raised a lot of crucial points for carers.
      Take care


      Comment by Gordon | April 23, 2010 | Reply

  8. Hi Gordon,

    All they are doing is tinkering round the edges, faffing about as my mam would have said.
    Why not support those carers caring in excess of 35+ /50+ hours per week in a manner they deserve.Increase the benefits to a level that means they can save for their own holidays,can live their lives as they chose,not how govt allows them to do so.
    Carers mentioned in 2 x debates now, and unless I have missed it,there has been no mention of Carers Allowance itself and all the restrictions therein. I will stand corrected if it has been mentioned.You may say that the White Paper is about social care so not relevant, some do. Yet families provide the bulk of social care so it should be included.

    The govt/the country rely on family carers to continue caring. How many carers do you talk to G who dont want their kids to follow suit. I know I am one of them.

    The amount of care given in some cases, the nature of care, is increasing and will continue to do so. Until they settle the issues, or at least some of them, surrounding carers,no new system will work. How long before we would be here again.

    It is common sense,which they seem to have thrown out the window, to build something with a strong base, a strong foundation. For us families are that, they must be recognised fully and therein in time, more help could be given to those who live alone.Supporting families means we could widen the help given to others,more preventative measures will be in place.

    Its not just about each parties policies,its their starting position and for many carers, not just myself, they have took 2 steps forward just now, but soon will take 3 back.

    Would any of the Leaders/Health Ministers want to work a 50+ week all yr round and then be allocated just one week off.

    Where are the Leader debates about Welfare reform re carers’ benefits?

    We are now what, 18+ months down the line, and we are no further forward now than we were the day even the Green Paper for social care was released.Still too many questions and not enough answers.

    The consensus needed among them seems to be getting further out of reach.

    Comment by Rosemary | April 23, 2010 | Reply

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