Party conference season in Scotland

Alongside my colleagues in England and Wales, I’ve been attending party conferences in order to speak to politicians and policy makers about carers and how they can support them. I am writing this on a very crowded train home from Aberdeen, where the Scottish National Party have been meeting, and over the past couple of days I have been to some really interesting discussions on human rights, health and care, and the future of charities. It’s been a good opportunity to meet some of the SNP’s new MPs who were elected in May, as well as catch up with MSPs who I’ve worked with over the last few years. The Carers (Scotland) Bill is due to be completed by the beginning of next year – the lead committee has reported back on the evidence that it heard from us and other organisations, and has made several positive recommendations for change, including the need for a duty on involving carers in hospital discharge and clarity around short breaks. The Scottish Government is due to respond to the report in the next couple of weeks, but have already announced that emergency planning for carers will be included in Adult Carer Support Plans, a change that we had asked for. I spoke with several MSPs at conference about the changes we’d like to see to the Bill before it enters Stage 2, and hopefully the case has been made to amend the Bill based on carers’ asks. MPs were also interested, and I had a few thought-provoking discussion about the merits of the Carers Bill vs the Care Act.

As well as speaking to politicians and third sector colleagues at conference, I managed to hear some of the speeches and debate. It was cheering to hear the First Minister’s confirmation that Carers Allowance will be raised to the same level as Jobseekers’ Allowance when the powers to do this are devolved to the Scottish Parliament. Of course, £73.10 per week, whilst better than the current Carers Allowance, still isn’t enough for a family to live on without experiencing poverty, and we’ll continue to lobby the Scottish Government for a brand new benefit for carers that recognises the need for a fair income for those who cannot work because of caring responsibilities. It was also cheering to watch delegates debate a resolution (a motion) on carers in employment and for this to be passed unanimously – whilst I didn’t really expect any disagreement, delegates that I spoke to afterwards had been humbled by the facts, figures and personal experiences that speakers had shared about the realities of caring in Scotland. It was the same at the fringe event on carer friendly workplaces – several people in attendance said that they had no idea about the struggles carers face to combine caring with paid employment and were pleased that some businesses were taking steps to improve things.

There will be a lot going on between now and the Scottish elections in May – the completion of the Carers Bill, further amendments to the Scotland Bill, promoting our manifesto for carers (watch this space!) and working with the parties to ensure their own manifestos support change for Scotland’s carers. We will be working to make sure that all the candidates in next year’s election understand the needs of carers in their communities, and together with Network Partners we’ll be raising the profile of the work we do and campaigning for change.

Heather Noller is Policy and Parliamentary Officer at Carers Trust Scotland




October 27, 2015 - Posted by | Party Conferences

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