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Prime Minister celebrates Carers Week

Note: The following post is from Beryl Cross, Head of Operations at The Princess Royal Trust for Carers

The Prime Minister hosted a reception for about 150 carers at 10 Downing Street yesterday to celebrate Carers’ Week. I Number 10was there with carers and staff from our Carers’ Centres. You had to be very brave to fight through the melee to get to the Prime Minister, or in Louise’s case perhaps have someone like me to push you in the back to make you do so.

Louise is a young carers who is supported by our Bromley Carers’ Centre, and she gave David Cameron a letter she had written explaining her experience and ideas for supporting young carers.  Moira Fraser, our Director of Policy, was also straight in there, highlighting to David Cameron the need for government to take action on getting NHS money for carers breaks delivered to carers and raising our Give Carers a Break campaign. And it seemed to work as in his speech later in the evening the Prime Minister said the government should “follow through” on getting Primary Care Trusts to use that breaks money for carers.

He also made reference to his own experience as a carer for his son and he gave “a huge thank you” to the carers there for what they do. There were many other Ministers there including Nick Clegg MP, Paul Burstow MP (Minister for Care Services) and Steve Webb MP (Minister for Pensions), plus Tony Baldry MP co-chair the Parliamentary Group on Carers and other MPs who have supported carers in Parliament. They also recognised the massive contribution made by carers.

Jack Dromey MP also asked the Prime Minister about carers during Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday to which the PM responded:

“Everyone in the House should welcome the fact that it is carers week. I will be having a reception in No. 10 tonight to celebrate carers week with many people who take part and who are carers. This Government are putting in £400 million to give carers more breaks and £800 million specifically to make sure that those looking after disabled children get regular breaks.”

Thanks

Beryl

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June 16, 2011 Posted by | Carers Week 2009, Relationships, Social Care, Young carers | , , , , | 5 Comments

Carers show the true face of caring

A few years ago, Karen gave up work to care for her husband full time. She wanted to work part-time and care but her

Young carer helping his brother

employer was not willing to consider reduced hours. Plus, health and social services calculated that it would cost £160k p/a to provide a care package to meet all of his needs. The cheaper option was to leave the care to her and provide £5k worth of support.

Karen’s husband has a degenerative condition which does not directly cause early death. She pointed out that he could live for another 28 years but that there would be no chance she could carry on that long. She feels that she is being run into the ground and exists to provide care.

For about 90 minutes today, Karen shared her story with Rory Stewart MP, Peter Aldous MP, Laura Sandys MP, Cathy Jamieson MP, Andrew Bridgen MP, Stephen Mosley MP, Jonathan Lord MP and Tracey Couch MP.

James (aged 19) and Samuel (aged 15) were also there speaking to these MPs. Both care for their mothers and have done so for many years. Their message was simple:

  • GPs need to think about who is looking after their patient at home
  • schools have to realise that pupils can be young carers which affects their school work
  • local young carers’ projects can provide vital support

These were young men who were speaking matter of factly about what they do, the impact on their own lives and what more should be done. It always strikes me how mature young carers can be when discussing their situation. Afterwards, we walked around London to see Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square, and they  talked about their interests and futures. This should be a time of choices for both.

Karen didn’t seem to have many choices; the map for her life had already been drawn. Her story illustrates why many carers feel taken advantage of and taken for granted.

The galling thing is that Karen could be considered a lucky carer as she might get a personal budget of £500 this year as a result of the Government’s £400m injection into the NHS for carers. Very few carers get a personal budget (fewer than 50,000 in 08/09) and if they do it is usually for approximately £250. So Karen could nearly consider herself a model of how the extra money is providing extra support. But as she pointed out, her £500 will still only provide one hour off every fortnight.

This is not the change that carers need. This can only just be the start or we will leave James and Samuel with no choices, and no chance.

Take care

Gordon

PS: Carers need continued support. Don’t forget to tune-in to BBC Lifeline’s appeal for carers on BBC One on June 19th at 4:45 pm (if you are in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland) and 5:15 (if in Scotland). Please do spread the word.

June 14, 2011 Posted by | Benefits, breaks for carers, Carers Week 2009, Relationships, Young carers | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Ready for Carers Week 2011

Carers Week 2011 will be the largest awareness raising week in the UK and it begins on Monday 13th June. Over 1500 organisations including Carers’ Centres and Crossroads Care schemes, other charities, local councils, GP surgeries, hospitals and private sector companies will be holding events throughout the week.

My week begins with an event with MPs and carers on Monday, which will be something akin tcarers weeko speed dating. Numerous carers will be sat at various tables and MPs will come in and speak to each one, moving around the tables giving them a chance to hear and discuss what it’s like to be a carer.

The aim is to show MPs the range of people that caring can affect and the different issues involved. So there will be young carers there, older carers, carers who combine work and care, people who care for people who have mental health problems, or learning disabilities, or physical disabilities. I’ll blog on Monday night to let you know how it goes.

On Wednesday, Sheila Gilmore MP is holding a debate in Parliament on carers and the effects of spending cuts on them and there will also be a reception for carers at 10 Downing Street hosted by the Prime Minister, David Cameron MP. We will have a guest blogger reporting back on that one.

Fast forwarding to Sunday 19th June, The Princess Royal Trust for Carers will be featured on the BBC Lifeline Appeal on BBC One at 4.55pm. Do tune in and tell friends and family about it – we hope it will raise the profile of carers and also where carers can get help.

You can find out what events are happening in your local area at the Carers Week website and do post comments letting us know if you are involved in holding events for Carers Week. If you are, good luck!

Take care

Gordon

PS: Carers need continued support. Don’t forget to tune-in to BBC Lifeline’s appeal for carers on BBC One on June 19th at 4:45 pm (if you are in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland) and 5:15 (if in Scotland). Please do spread the word.

June 10, 2011 Posted by | Carers Week 2009, Mental Health, Young carers | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Carers Question Time

Well we certainly stretched Carers Week out as much as possible. The first event (Thames Walk) was before it even started and the last media interview took place at 11pm last night. The lucky person who got to stay up late on a Sunday night for the Five Live interview was my esteemed colleague Danni Manzi. Danni heads the development of young carers support work in England and Wales for The Princess Royal Trust for Carers.

I’m going to have to take some tips from Danni who managed to remember our website address and telephone number during the interview, which was something that I failed to do with Quay Radio (Portsmouth) last Thursday.

Last Thursday was a busy one with me attending a question time type event at our Southwark Carers’ Centre. I do fear these events in case everybody realises that the carers in the audience know more than me sitting on the panel. Thankfully, I wasn’t heckled or booed and the event showed how poor the level of discourse on the real Question Time can be.

Two fellow panellists were councillors who admitted to me beforehand that had learnt so much in preparation for the event. This honesty meant that they actually listened and even agreed to meet with carers to discuss how carers’ policies could be included in their local party manifesto for council elections. Genuine working together can hopefully bring greater understanding of the pressure on both sides.

Sadly, this will have to be done without Allan Johnstone, who was enjoying his last day as Chief Executive of the centre. He will be missed but will still be working to support carers – so all is not lost. Centre managers often put huge amounts of their lives into supporting carers and I am generally in awe of what they manage to do on a shoestring.

Doing this did mean that I missed the short debate on carers in the House of Commons. However, I did manage to read the debate online.

It was good to see that Dr Andrew Murrison spoke. He was one of the MPs who dropped in to our information service last week who had never previously been involved. 

There was much focus on Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) not providing breaks for carers, which I’ve mentioned in earlier blogs. MPs Paul Burstow, Greg Mulholland and Stephen O’Brien all asked Phil Hope MP (Minister for Care Services) how the Government was tracking whether PCTs were spending the £50m given to them (£100m next year) to provide breaks for carers. Mr Hope didn’t give the wholly truthful answer of “we’re not” but chose to absolve himself of responsibility instead placing it on MPs and carers themselves:

“Part of his responsibilities as a local MP, along with those of carers, might be to ensure that the local primary care trust understands the needs of carers, does the job that it should be doing to assess people’s needs and ensures that it allocates from its budget the money that the Government have allocated to it to support carers in the area.”

I would love to find out how much Northamptonshire NHS, which covers Phil Hope’s constituency, is spending on carers.

The truth is the Ministers gave the money then washed their hands of it. Little guidance was given to PCTs and PCTs were not even told how much of the £50m each was receiving. We have been gathering information over recent months and the feedback shows that only four out of the 70 PCTs we have information on are spending all of their allocation (we worked these out) on carers’ services. The majority do not seem to be spending any of it on carers.

Anne McGuire MP also asked the Government to consider not defining Carer’s Allowance as an income replacement benefit, which would allow a carer to receive a State Pension and a Carer’s Allowance at the same time. Many carers dream of such a scenario.

Young carers also received some focus and the debate does show that there are MPs who care. However, if a new speaker does reform anything, it should be making MPs answer the questions put to them in Parliament. It’s a shame that local councillors find it easier to be open and honest than national Parliamentarians do.

Take care,

Gordon

June 15, 2009 Posted by | Carers Week 2009 | , , , | Leave a comment

No break for carers

One thing that Carers Week does achieve is huge media interest which can result in people like me being pitched into radio interviews. So yesterday I was trying to refine my Scottish accent so that the listeners of Radio Cornwall could understand me. Although I’m not sure how many there are in the first place.

It seemed to go well i.e. I didn’t swear, enter a coughing fit, sneeze or lose the ability of speech. The interviewer had done a bit of homework and asked whether there was a gap between what carers needed and what the Government was doing. I knew the answer to that one!

He was genuinely astounded by the number of carers there are and brought up an interesting point for listeners advising them that even if they are not currently a carer, it was likely that would be at some point, so they had better get involved in the debate too. Three cheers for Radio Cornwall I say. 

From that interview I ran off to Parliament with Anne Roberts, Chief Exec of Crossroads, for a reception with about 40 MPs and carers in support of Carers Week. Whilst running along, Anne gave me the lowdown on the two finalists of The Apprentice who she met whilst doing an interview for GMTV.

The security checks made us miss the speeches by the two carers. However, I know Janice from our Surrey carers’ centre so she kindly gave me her speech. The last paragraph is especially moving and worth repeating. 

“As well as people with unique insight into the circumstances of our loved ones, we are also people with responsibilities and lives outside of caring. I want this to be recognised, respected and supported.”

Jonathan Shaw MP, Minister for Disabled People (who has the brief for carers’ benefits in the Dept of Work and Pensions), was there so let’s hope he was listening. He also got his ear bent about how Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) were not providing breaks for carers as was announced they would do in the Carers Strategy last year. 

Anne McGuire MP, who hosted the reception and knows what it is like to be a carer, asked for more information about this. The problem is that although PCTs have been given money, it is not ring-fenced, so some PCTs are using it to provide breaks for carers but the majority are not. 

I’ll talk more about the problems with PCT and breaks for carers in a later blog but for now I would like to take my hat off to Janice from Surrey and the DJ from Cornwall who have shown wise words don’t have to come from MPs or finalists of TV programmes.

Take care,

Gordon

June 11, 2009 Posted by | Carers Week 2009 | , , , | Leave a comment

Carers Week kicks off

I wouldn’t say it’s like waking up on Christmas morning, but you do get a buzz at the start of National Carers Week. And some people are so eager to get it going that hundreds of carers and supporters completed a ten-mile walk along the River Thames to raise awareness and funds. They even had a tiny little dog as a mascot that raised hundreds of pounds.

My Carers Week kicked off with a carers information drop in service for MPs and peers held in Parliament yesterday. Barbara Keeley MP kindly organised the room for us and in the two hour period we got 10 MPs dropping in to ask our carers support workers about the issues that carers face, and also the problems they face trying to deliver support services for carers.

Some of the MPs were quite well versed in carers’ issues but it was good to see a couple of MPs who have never been involved before. There was one moment when we had an MP from each party there. Luckily no referee was needed and indeed two of the rival MPs wanted to have their picture taken together with our support workers. They must be friendlier sorts down Somerset way…

One of these MPs was a Lib Dem who I had quite an in-depth discussion with. He certainly seems a sincere and intelligent man and asked what the one thing that carers wanted was. I admit to being greedy by nature so said that carers would want at least two things – greater access to information and emotional support, and greater provision of respite breaks.

But it got me thinking afterwards that it was wrong to think that the multitude of problems that six million carers face can be solved by one sole policy change. Some carers would see increasing Carer’s Allowance as the main concern; others would see accessing respite as vital so that they can combine working and caring. Or should we be training health and social care professionals to more regularly identify carers and offer them support?

Carers come from all walks of life – young and old, rich and poor, urban and rural, straight and gay, black and white. Each has their own set of problems to face meaning there isn’t a single magical solution. It will take long-term dedication and drive to make the changes needed to improve carers’ lives and MPs will have to face up to that.

Take Care,

Gordon

June 6, 2009 Posted by | Carers Week 2009 | , , | 1 Comment