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
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
This week I’m in up in Manchester at the Labour Party conference. To kick off my Monday, I’ve been at a meeting in Manchester City Hall organised by Action for Children , looking at the impact the current economic situation is having on children and families and what Labour should do if it’s elected next time. There was a great turn out and real support from MPs, including Lisa Nandy MP one of the shadow education ministers. My table was chaired by Pat Glass, MP for North West Durham, whose commitment to education issues is second to none.
Each group had case studies to discuss, and as it turns out, 3 of the tables were discussing a young carers issue. Whilst all were supportive of young carers, I was a bit worried by the feedback, which suggests to me that all of us working to support young carers need to get our messages out more clearly.
In the case study, the young carer involved was facing cuts in her local young carers service. It became clear in the room that many people don’t really have the full picture on what young carer services do. I think there’s still a perception that young carers services just provide fun activities for young people. Some participants were saying, well young carers services are all very well, but actually all sort of other services should be intervening to help the child, like education.
Of course, this is exactly what most young carers services do, using a whole family approach, pulling together all the organisations and professionals to make sure that the outcomes for that child and that family are as positive as possible. Sometimes the young carers worker is the only person looking at the family as a whole. They also work with schools, doing outreach work and supporting schools to identify and support young carers. Our schools resource encourages schools to put the policies and practice in place which we know can really make a difference.
However the other thing which was a bit worrying was that the people in the room didn’t seem to be asking the question of why the young person was in a caring role in the first place, and what impact that was having on them. We need to challenge the assumption that it’s OK to rely on a child or young person to provide care. Whilst most young carers want to help, and the caring they are doing may be fine for them at the moment, this should never be at the expense of their own childhood. If the kinds or extent of caring tasks they are carrying out is having a negative impact, then this needs to be addressed urgently. It’s right that families should all pitch in to support each other, but children have a right to be children, first and foremost.
One of the problems we face is that where local authority care budgets are cut, then if someone has care needs, that care still has to be provided by someone- and it inevitably falls to friends and family to provide it. This is hard enough for adults, and we know many are struggling to cope with cuts in services and family finances. We need to make the point crystal clear that it is never acceptable to expect a child to fill the gap in care which is left when services are cut.
79% of young carers were worried about reaching 18 as there were no services to support them through that transition period while continuing to care between childhood and adulthood. Help us support young adult carers by voting for us as Co-operative’s Charity of the Year.
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.
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
The Princess Royal Trust for Carers is part of a group of charities that work together to keep health issues high up the political agenda. Within the large group, we join into triumvirates to hold debates at each party of conference and we went with the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) and Breakthrough Breast Cancer.
We decided that our debates would replicate the format of Dragon’s Den with each organisation making a pitch to a panel asking for money to improve what the NHS achieves. The panel at each conference would be made up of a Minister (or shadow), a journalist, a NHS representative and a patient or carer. They would interrogate us, followed by questions from the audience and then they would decide how many chocolate gold coins each organisation would get.
The RCGP wanted more money to lengthen GP training from 3 years to 5 years that would help their awareness of the huge variety of conditions and prepare them for GP commissioning. Breakthrough wanted funding so that every area used digital mammography rather than having to process film, which would make the process much quicker. We wanted money to support carers at the point of discharge to prepare them for what caring responsibilities they would shortly take on.
We narrowly lost to the RCGP at the Lib Dem conference but audience members told us that we were robbed. I agreed. However, we did get the backing of the dragons at the Labour and Conservative conferences including the support of Diana Johnson MP and Simon Burns MP, Shadow and Minister of Health respectively. We did get a wee bit of help from Dr Claire Gerada, incoming RCGP chair who gave their pitch, announced that the dragons should give us their vote at the Conservative conference.
The debates at each conference were very well attended (overflowing at Tories) and the feedback from delegates was very positive, including NHS and local authority reps. Denis Campbell (Guardian and Observer journalist), chaired the Conservative party and concluded that the treatment of carers was a national scandal. Hopefully another ally there.
I’ll let you know exactly what the politicians were saying in the next blog, but just thought you might find this interesting.