CarersBlog

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Getting the message to MPs

Over the next two weeks, representatives from Carers Trust will be heading to the Labour and Conservative Party Conferences to meet with MPs and tell them what they can do to support carers.

But it won’t be just us putting the case to politicians. You’ll be there with us too.

Because, in the last month we’ve been asking Carers Trust supporters to send us a message that we can pass on to politicians. Continue reading

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September 25, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Labour, Party Conferences | 1 Comment

Party conference season

For a few weeks every autumn the news is full of stories from the party conferences of the three main parties – analysis of the leaders speeches (and what they did or maybe didn’t say), rumours of potential leadership bids from political rivals and news pundits trying to ascertain the mood of the conference delegates.

However there is much more to party conference season than the short snippets that get shown on the news. It’s a really important opportunity for us to speak to key decision makers and to talk about the needs of carers.

In September and October Carers Trust’s Policy Team attended the Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat Party Conferences in Manchester, Birmingham and Glasgow. Continue reading

October 22, 2014 Posted by | breaks for carers, Conservatives, David Cameron, Education, Employment, Funding, General Election, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Party Conferences | 1 Comment

A chance to change the social care system in England

For years we’ve been campaigning for a total change to the social care system in England which has been with Government inactivity. But now, there is a chance.

Government health ministers, Andrew Lansley and Paul Burstow, are generally supportive of the recommendations made by the Dilnot Commission. And they would be supported by Labour if they implemented these recommendations.

George Osborne and David Cameron

“…the next time we read about carers breaking down because they receive no support, we will blame you”

But the person we need to convince is George Osborne, Chancellor and the man who manages Conservative political strategy. Implementing the changes would cost £1.7bn p/a which is a lot of money but equal to only 0.25% of total current Government spending.

When the Government can find £1.05bn from nowhere for bins and council tax freezes then we cannot allow Osborne to use the excuse that there is no money to pay for this. Make social care a priority and find the cash George.

The message we need to give George Osborne, David Cameron and other MPs is this. If you do not implement these recommendations, then the next time we read about carers breaking down because they receive no support, we will blame you. The next time we read about people receiving shockingly poor levels of care, then we will blame you. The next time we hear of councils cutting vital services because they have no cash, we will blame you.

With power comes responsibility. Osborne and Cameron have the power and the opportunity to improve the lives of millions, they must take responsibility for doing so.

But we each have a role to play. Whether you need social care support now or not, at some point you or your family will. We have a responsibility to our friends and family to make sure we grab this chance for change.

We’re organising a mass lobby of MPs on 6th March. People from all over the country will have the chance to meet their MP in Parliament and lobby for better social care support in England.

Get involved and make change happen. http://carelobby2012.org.uk/

Take action

Gordon

January 17, 2012 Posted by | Conservatives, David Cameron, Labour, Social Care, Uncategorized | , | 2 Comments

Bins and council tax trump social care for Tories

Whereas Labour are still deciding their priorities, the Conservatives appear to have nailed theirs to the mast. And social care isn’t there.

Eric Pickles MP, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government began their conference by announcing that

Eric Pickles MP with David Cameron

Eric Pickles MP with David Cameron

£250m had been found which would be given to councils for weekly bin collections. Funding for social care comes from councils, and funding for local authorities comes from the Department of Communities and Local Government. So rather than giving this money to councils to spend on social care, the Government are saying it has to be spent on bin collections.

This Government, and Pickles in particular, has been adamant that decisions must be made at the local level, and councils given freedom to decide. Yet, Pickles is not making this £250m available for whatever councils think it could best be spent on; it is only available for councils who want to move to weekly bin collections.

Of course, some councils already run weekly bin collections, and a couple of councillors at the Conservative conference were left wondering whether they should stop that so that they can claim some of the £250m to reintroduce what they are already doing.

This was followed by George Osborne’s announcement that Government had found an extra £800m to give to councils who committed to freeze their council tax rates. Again, this newly found money is not available for councils to spend as they see best but can only be used to compensate councils who do not increase council tax rates.

Compare this focus on bins and council tax to social care. I asked Lord Freud (DWP Minister) and Greg Hands MP (Parliamentary assistant to George Osborne) about how important it was to implement the Dilnot Commission’s recommendations on social care but received no answers. I asked Maria Miller MP (Minister for Disabled People), who said meeting the challenge of our population’s changing demographics was one of our biggest, but instead of discussing Dilnot’s report, focussed on how introducing the right to request flexible working for all will help carers trying to juggle work and care.

Andrew Lansley in his speech did mention the £400m given to the NHS to support carers, but there was no mention of social care or Dilnot. When asked about it, no firm commitments were forthcoming. Understandably, Lansley is focussed on getting his Health Bill through Parliament but we must get the Conservatives to see social care as a priority.

Instead of commitment to reforming social care, there is a reticence emanating from Conservatives. It usually starts with talk of implementing Dilnot being very expensive and a lot of work still to be done. Implementing Dilnot is £1.7bn per annum; the Tories have just found, out of nowhere, £1.05bn for bins and council tax.

Take care

Gordon

October 5, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Conservatives, David Cameron, Labour, Social Care | , , , , , | 7 Comments

Cameron, Clegg and Milliband agree to social care reform talks

Trekkies love it when Captain Jean Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) orders in a commanding, deep voice “make it so” and in an instant his crew set to work. Mistakenly, we often think that politicians have similar power.

Paul Burstow MP, Health Minister, honestly wants the NHS to do more to support carers. He thought providing additional money (£400m) and requesting the NHS to work with carers’ organisations on plans and budgets would provide this. Of course,  our report showed that this has not happened. Burstow told us at the Lib Dem conference that he was upset at this, was trying to improve the situation and will give even stronger guidance that the NHS has to prioritise carers.

But he cannot make the NHS do this because they have local decision making powers and no one person can control everything that happens in an organisation as large as the NHS.

The Government is actually structured so that power is shared amongst many people – Prime Minister, the Cabinet, MPs, Lords and other advisers. Some hold more than others, but each have some power with nobody having absolute power. And they all have their own priorities fighting to be the one Government acts upon.

This is why Burstow has appealed for disabled people, carers and charities to get angry and make a racket of noise regarding social care reform following the Dilnot and Law Commissions’ recommendations. He wants reform and says that he will be angry if the Lib Dems does not make this a priority.

Norman Lamb MP, chief adviser to Nick Clegg, said he wants social care reform in this Parliament and that any reform must mean more money for social care. However, his message was that it will only happen if politicians keep hearing from the public that reform must happen. Otherwise it will slip down the list of priorities.

Cameron, Clegg and Miliband have agreed to cross party talks on social care reform. This is a good start but only a start. The Government have announced another listening exercise for the reform of social care. This can either be used to build consensus on future reform or delay the need for a decision pushing reform further down the list of priorities.

Burstow and Lamb understand the urgent need to reform social care but not everybody does. I was left aghast when John Hemming MP (Lib Dem) said he did not see the connection between reforming social care and helping workplace productivity and employment, despite having just heard from John Lewis Partnership that more and more people are struggling to combine work with caring because support from social services is lacking.

We have to realise that for some, social care reform is not an issue or a priority. We need to change that. We need to make sure leaders and MPs from all parties hear how important it is to millions of people. It’s time to make some noise.

Gordon

September 21, 2011 Posted by | Carers Strategy, Conservatives, David Cameron, Liberal Democrats, Party Conferences, Social Care | , , | 10 Comments

Government Does Good by Not Scrapping Carer’s Allowance

A couple of weeks ago, the Government asked to meet us to discuss Carer’s Allowance and whether it should be Carer and caree laughingmerged with the proposed Universal Credit or not. We said not.

If you care for somebody for more than 35 hours p/w and that person receives the mid/high rate care component of Disability Living Allowance, then you can get the Carer’s Allowance of £53.90 p/w. However, you don’t get it if you receive another higher benefit such as Income Support or State Pension, or are in education or training for more than 20 hours p/w.

Considering this, it’s no surprise that many carers strongly believe that Carer’s Allowance is not enough and too many carers can’t get it.

The Government wants to merge numerous benefits such as Jobseeker’s Allowance into one single benefit called Universal Credit to simplify the system. However, there are two reasons why carers opposed moving Carer’s Allowance into Universal Credit.

The recognition that receiving a benefit specific to carers is important to them. It shows that the Government understands that they are not like other people receiving benefits – they are actually having to make a valuable contribution to qualify for that benefit. They want to know that the Government appreciates this.

Also Universal Credit will be a means tested benefit that will take into account savings and earnings of others in the household. Carer’s Allowance is not means tested. A change would have meant that carers could still be caring for more than 35 hours p/w but would have received a Universal Credit amount even lower than £53.90 because of savings they may have (which may be needed to pay for care).

The Government has an understandable aim of targeting benefits at those with most financial need, but withdrawing Carer’s Allowance from some would only make carers feel even more unappreciated and taken advantage of. The health and social care system is terrible at recognising carers and for many carers Carer’s Allowance is the only recognition they receive for what they do.

Taking Carer’s Allowance away from those who give so much would have been simply wrong. This is the message we gave Government. We are glad they listened.

Gordon

February 17, 2011 Posted by | Benefits, Carer's Allowance, Carers Strategy, Conservatives, David Cameron, Liberal Democrats | , , , , , | 23 Comments

Looking Back at the Year 2010

My first highlight of 2010 actually started in December 2009. I got a call from somebody at the Lib Dems asking if I could produce various proposals regarding carers for their manifesto. Fast forward to February 2010, and the Lib Dems announce their election manifesto will include £500m to support carers.

March saw a roundtable discussion with HRH The Princess Royal, carers and Ministerial representation from the three main parties – Phil Hope, Stephen O’Brien, and Paul Burstow. A year after we started warning the Government that their £150m to the NHS for carers wasn’t being spent on carers, Phil Hope belatedly pledged that Labour would act.

But he never got the chance to act as an election was called and for the first time, the three leaders debated live on TV. And these produced in public awareness terms, the moment of the year.

It was near the end and there was a question about caring for an elderly population and Clegg answered that this means we must support carers. But more importantly, Brown and Cameron felt that they had to speak about carers – it had become an issue that party leaders had to talk about. And they did again during the second TV debate.

Now you may say talk is cheap and often leads to nothing, but in May when the new Coalition’s Programme for Government was published, proposals to increase support for carers was in there when other issues that were not. That Clegg and Cameron had made public pledges about carers helped to make this happen.

It was this Coalition pledge that led in November to £400m over four years being announced to increase support for carers. Importantly, the Government have instructed the NHS to work with local carers’ organisations to publish policies, plans and budgets of how they will support carers. This could make sure the money is spent on carers as it should be.

The last highlight was in the NHS Outcomes Framework, published 20th Dec in time for Christmas. The NHS will be measured for their ability to help carers enjoy a quality of life that we all expect to have. Finally, the NHS will have to take an interest in the millions of friends and relatives who take on caring roles after discharge from hospital.

These are my highlights from 2010, but I know that despite progress there will be carers whose situations will be untouched by pledges and improvements. 2011 will be a challenging year and we’ll be working hard to make sure we keep moving forward and that more carers get the support they need and deserve.

I hope you all have a good Christmas and New Year, and that Santa is good to you of course. Thank you for all of the comments on the various posts this year; the discussions are useful for us and I hope interesting for readers. Probably more so than my blog!

Take care all

Gordon

December 23, 2010 Posted by | Budget, Carers Strategy, Conservatives, David Cameron, General Election, Labour, Liberal Democrats | | 6 Comments

Local authority spending: Cuts are unacceptable to carers

The Comprehensive Spending Review was the start, now the game has got real. This week, Government announced how much each local authority and primary care trust (PCT) will receive in 2011/12 and it is now up to them to decide how to spend the cash.

So far, charities and the sector have given grave portent of councils being forced into swinging cuts and services being lost. But we are wrong to continue this hands up in horror approach.

Firstly, the average cut for each council is 4.4%. Now, when you are talking about council budgets of £200m, then this is a lot of money – £8.8m. But think about it, 4.4% does not require whole services cut or individual funding packages ravaged as we have been hearing.

Inflation does mean the real term reduction is more and similar cuts will be made in 2012/13, but councils will also be able to find savings without cutting services. By playing up the funding reduction, we give councils cover for cuts to social services that they don’t need to make.

Indeed, you could argue that there should be no cut to social services.

The Department of Health gives grants to councils for adult social care and this forms part of the total grant to local authorities. These grants, such as the Carers’ Grant, have previously been an identifiable amount within the total grant although not ring-fenced.

For 2011/12, these grants will continue and INCREASE in line with inflation. The only difference is that they are no longer identified within the total grant given to each council.

So, we’ve done it instead. Take the Carers’ Grant for each council in 2010/11 and increase it by 3% (current inflation is 3.3%) and you have the indicative amount for each council’s share of the Carers’ Grant in 2011/12.

With the additional £100m given to PCTs for 2011/12 to spend on carers, which is meant to be pooled with council’s budgets, there is no excuse to cut support for carers. No excuse at all.

The NHS Operating Framework, published along with each PCT’s budget, says every PCT must work with carers’ organisations and councils to publish policies, plans and budgets to support carers. This Government and Paul Burstow should be applauded for this instruction.

The reality is councils have no excuse to cut carers’ services and PCTs are to discuss with us and councils how their extra money is to be used. Folks, we’re here ready to talk. And not about cuts, but about the extra support that carers need and deserve.

Take care,

Gordon

Note:                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Read in detail on the local authority spending for 2011-2012

December 17, 2010 Posted by | Benefits, Carers Strategy, Conservatives, David Cameron, Liberal Democrats | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“NHS, give us our money”

There is a scene in ‘Yes, Prime Minister’ when Humphrey the civil servant shows how changing the way things are phrased can either lead somebody into thinking that national service is what we need to instil discipline or that national service is like giving guns to thugs and showing how to use them.

I see the same tricks being used when it comes to local government making decisions. It’s either local people having control in their own communities or something that leads to postcode lotteries where people living across the street can get treated differently.

Would you want a bureaucrat stuck in a London office deciding what happens in your rural community or would you like a dedicated public servant who has spent years working in different communities and has gathered information about what works best from all over the country and internationally? The two can be the same.

Most people I have spoken with favour local people deciding what happens in their local communities but don’t want postcode lotteries. Most seem to want policy based on evidence and learning from what has been tried and tested, but abhor the employment of any ‘bureaucrat’ to do this.

So what do people think about the Government’s decision to give the NHS £400m over four years without ring-fencing to supporting carers? They probably think that Labour tried this with £150m over 2 years and our research showed that only 25% of it was used to increase support for carers. So what’s different this time? Hopefully a couple of things which will help.

  • Primary Care Trusts (and then GP commissioning consortia from 2012/13) will know how much of the annual £100m their share is, allowing local people to know exactly how much they have received to spend on carers.
  • PCTs will be monitored on their performance regarding support for carers

These didn’t happen before and I hope that they will lead to more than 25% of the £400m being used to increase support for carers, but certainly not all of it will. Some will say that Government shouldn’t announce £400m for carers when the NHS can spend the money on anything it chooses. I understand this, but I can also understand that there would be an outcry if Paul Burstow said that he as Minister for Care Services was not going to do anything to support carers – that it is a matter for local government.

We look to national government because that is who we elect to govern for us. And yet we then want local control but without the variation that inevitably brings. Our opinion on this probably changes according to the particular issue; it depends on where you are sitting at the time. One thing I know is that where carers are sitting at the moment is a place full of overburden, isolation and turmoil, which makes the right call unequivocal: “NHS, give us our money.”

December 1, 2010 Posted by | Budget, Carers Strategy, Conservatives, David Cameron, Liberal Democrats, Young carers | , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Carers in the News

Blogs are good when you’ve got newsworthy things to talk about. The problem is that if carers’ issues are in the media, then it generally means I’ve got no time to write a blog. So, the blog I was going to write after Andrew Marr was asking Iain Duncan Smith about what he will do for carers two Sundays ago was superseded by the young carers’ story the Tuesday after. Which, was combined with the Government announcing £400m breaks for carers.

Then there was the Government’s new Vision for Adult Social Care and what it means for carers, but before I could write anything, I was at events with carers two days in a row and wanted to speak about those. Then the Carers’ Strategy was published on Thursday and the Government announced £6m to improve GP support of carers.

Every time I went to write something, it was yesterday’s news. I always get told that blogs have to be current to be read by people, although I’m not sure how many readers I have to lose!

However, if you will permit me I will do a rapid succession of blogs covering all of these immediately after this blog. And anyway taking time to look back at things is healthy…

But all of this activity has made me ask whether this is a sign that carers as an issue is becoming ever more central to political and social discourse.

When everything is being cut, £400m extra is being announced for carers. When the Equality Act came into force, it was the benefits for carers that was highlighted (good job Carers UK). When the Coalition Government published its Programme for Government, there were specific commitments made to carers, when other issues were ignored. The party leaders discussed carers’ issues live on TV twice during the election and specific pledges were made.

I know it will not feel like it for many if not most carers, but as a movement, this could be our time to make great strides forward. The Law Commission and the Commission on the Funding of Care and Support will make recommendations next year which could fundamentally change the legal rights and level of support carers can expect. This is our time that we must make the most of.

The one thing I have learnt in these two weeks is that attention can be fleeting, moving onto something else very quickly. Before you know it, a royal has got engaged and the whole world goes gaga meaning carers’ issues drop back down. We can’t let that happen, not now.

Take care

Gordon

November 29, 2010 Posted by | Benefits, breaks for carers, Budget, Carers movement, Carers Strategy, Conservatives, David Cameron, Individual Budgets, Liberal Democrats | , , , , | 9 Comments