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

Children shouldn’t be responsible for filling gaps in care

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 a carer with her mumManchester 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.

Note:

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.

October 1, 2012 Posted by | Education, Employment, Health, Labour, Party Conferences, Young carers | | 3 Comments

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

Social care must be a priority for Labour

The big announcement from the Labour party conference was by Ed Balls regarding a commitment not to reverse the cuts of the current Government. What this actually means for future spending are not wholly clear, but probably means Labour will present a similar overall spending plan to the Tories at the next election.

Balls’ message disappointed some, but as I’ve argued a few times, there is still plenty of Government spending – £680bn p/a – so reprioritising what we invest in is a real option. And Labour seem to be indicating that they are prepared to do so.

As I heard from shadow Ministers John Healey MP, Emily Thornberry MP (both Health) and Barbara Keeley MP (Communities and Local Government), Labour would implement the Dilnot recommendations if they were in power. Furthermore, Labour are keen to work with the current Government to do so now.

Funding Dilnot’s recommendations for improving social care, must not come from further cuts to existing local government and communities spending. Indeed, we would want to see funding for communities and local government increase. I find it strange that Cameron professes it to be his number one priority yet spending on communities and local government received a larger cut than anybody else. The message I heard from some people at the Labour conference was that such funding is essential for councils and council funded groups to help isolated people engage with their community.

Conservative MP, Stephen Dorrell was also at the conference in a lively debate regarding current health care reforms with Labour shadow Minister, John Healey MP. Healey thinks the reforms could mean competition rules would hamper collaboration between providers of services harming patient care. Dorrell, while agreeing with Healey on many things, disagrees on this believing that competition law would not apply and that even if it did you could still have joined-up services. The example he gave was of supermarkets all offering joined up services (all those different types of clothes, food, white products etc) whilst operating under competition law.

Interestingly, Healey also said that Andrew Lansley has got his priorities wrong. He said it was not health care that needs reform but social care and that this should have been the priority. Emily Thornberry MP repeated this theme telling us that the health reforms were distracting focus from where changes did need to be made.

If the Government have got their priorities wrong, Labour must show what they would do to put it right.

Take care

Gordon

PS: Vote to help Crossroads Care Chorley & South Ribble win £6000 http://communityforce.natwest.com/project/1818

September 28, 2011 Posted by | Health, Labour, Social Care | , | Leave a comment

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

Scottish Party Conferences and Carers

Note: The following post has been contributed by Lynn Williams, the Policy Officer for Scotland at The Princess Royal Trust for Carers

***

After the Conferences…Well, the Scottish Party Conference season is over (a big ‘phew’ from me!!) and we take our first steps on the road to the Scottish Budget and Election 2011.

So what happened and how did carers fare?

The answer is not very well…so far.  Political parties in Scotland are only beginning to make policy announcements.   Carers were mentioned by the Scottish Labour Party.

Tasneem and Brenda – two carers from Glasgow who spoke at the recent Cross Party Group

The Scottish Lib Dems have included a commitment to carers in their pre manifesto document and we are continuing to work with their manifesto team to ensure that carers are fully recognised.

The SNP did not make any policy commitments about carers at their conference but a recent meeting with the SNP manifesto team generated some interesting ideas to benefit unpaid carers and young carers.  This includes looking at ways in which carers might be better supported in employment.  Also, a meeting with the Scottish Conservative shadow health team last month was productive and positive.

It’s too early to say at this stage if and how carers will be recognised in each party’s manifesto, but we continue to work with all the parties to ensure this happens.

So we look ahead to the budget and beyond to next May’s election….

A National Care Service?

Influencing party manifestos is all well and good, but it is what happens beyond the election that matters. 

If Labour gets into power next year, the new government will seek to introduce a National Care Service within the lifetime of the next Parliament (2011 – 2015). The aim in doing so would be to end the postcode lottery of social care provision, bringing together health and social care so that “no-one falls through the gaps” and that the focus is “on the person needing care.”

Did I miss the word carer in there somewhere?  Yes, I think I did.

Whilst no one would argue against the laudable aim of tackling the complicated infrastructure of support and the disconnect that exists between health and social care, is a NATIONAL service the way to do it?

As I lie awake at 4am in the morning (something which I do quite often) I have been thinking about this proposal:

  • Will it tackle the existing gaps and overlaps in existing provision?
  • Will it offer more effective recognition and support of carers?
  • Would the service lead to more effective working between the NHS and social care provision in Scotland.

Scotland is a small enough country to enable a national service to work; but, it’s hard to say anything concrete about this proposal without any more detail. And whatever form it takes, it cannot work without placing unpaid carers and young carers at its heart.  I think there is a missing link here….

Another point to make – “national” is not always better. It can be less quick to respond and the needs of the individual can be lost; it can be bureaucratic; it can also be more costly as layers of delivery and management develop over time. 

The last thing that concerns me is timescale – Mr. Gray and Ms. Baillie committed to delivering the new service during the lifetime of the next Parliament.  Whatever the benefits, opportunities – and challenges – of this proposal, the creation of a National Care Service won’t happen quickly enough to help carers now as they experience local cuts to services and changing eligibility criteria for respite and short breaks. It won’t happen quickly enough for local Carers’ Centres who are already struggling to meet massively increased demand on standstill budgets.

Another issue relates to social care procurement and plans within Greater Glasgow and Clyde Valley local authorities to look at merging specific functions such as social care.  Should this go ahead, there would be substantial impact on a significant number of carers and their families.  But bigger still, the national care service would, I guess, have a significant procurement role.  Would the focus be on quality or cost?  How would that benefits the lives of carers in Scotland? 

The Budget, Elections and Beyond….

So we move towards publication of the Scottish Budget later this month.  This will determine the public sector landscape and how services will be delivered both nationally and locally – no matter which party wins power next year.

We intend to put out a final ‘plea’ to MSPs prior to ensure that they support recognition of carers and young carers within the budget, and to ask them to put pressure on the Minister and Mr Swinney to continue Carer Information Strategy funds continue beyond 2011.  We will also ask that the existing Government places a requirement on health boards to work with carer organisations to take any future funding forward and that Centres benefit directly from this – they are best place to deliver services which benefit carers and young carers.

Even if this funding stream continues (and that would be extremely welcome) it does not guarantee sustainable funding for carer support and Carers’ Centres from 2011. The early stage plans to merge social care provision and other functions across a number of local authorities in the west of Scotland would likely have an impact on funding for Carers Centres.

So, now, more than ever, Carers Centres and the carers they support need to be vocal and visible and demonstrate the economic and social impact of reducing or stopping funding for carer support.  An example has been set – a Conservative controlled local authority in Greater London has recently awarded the local Carers Centre a seven year contract to deliver services because of its unique and effective offering.  That should be the model we aspire to.  If a Conservative local authority can do it, so can others.

All political parties in Scotland say they are committed to unpaid carers and young carers.  No doubt, each party’s manifesto will make a commitment to support them. Warm words at this point.  Carers who spoke at the recent Cross Party Group highlighted the continuing challenges they face for recognition.  We launched the Scottish Carers Manifesto at that event and its banner says ‘No more talk…. Action now”. That is the message we want every MSP and prospective parliamentary candidate to take to heart. There are tens of thousands of carers in your constituency and regions – that’s a lot of votes. In what is likely to be the tightest election since devolution, carers and first time voters who are young carers could help you win your constituency or regional seat.

Next time…

There is more happening at a national level around closer working between health and social care. This relates to the “Reshaping Care for the Elderly” agenda. Once we have more detail we will keep you posted.

For now, take care and please let me know what is happening with social care provision in your area.  Have cuts started to affect you?  Please contact me or use our Facebook pages to let us know the types of issues that you would like us to raise with MSPs.

Lynn

November 10, 2010 Posted by | Benefits, Budget, Carers Strategy, Conservatives, David Cameron, Health, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Party Conferences, Scotland, Social Care, Young carers | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pitching for Carers at the Party Conferences

Gordon Conochie making a pitch to the dragons

Gordon Conochie making a pitch to the dragons urging more investment in NHS for carers support

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.

Gordon

October 14, 2010 Posted by | Conservatives, Health, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Party Conferences, Uncategorized, Young carers | , , , | 1 Comment

The Labour Conference and the Big Care Debate

The final Labour Conference before the election; would the tone be going out with all guns blazing a la Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or one mired by infighting and every man for himself? In the ornate lobby of The Grand Hotel, it felt more like the Titanic with people denying the reality of a sinking ship.

At a meeting with Labour Ministers Phil Hope, Gillian Merron and Mike O’Brien, we were asked to imagine a world in which we had to deal with a Conservative Government. The Tories would listen and respond to us less we were told.

Phil Hope and Andy Burnham (Minister for Care Services & Secretary of State for Health) also spoke at a Big Care Debate event where it was repeated again that moving finances for Disability Living Allowance into social care budgets will not happen. However, it is clear that because of the ambiguity (see previous blog) in the Green Paper, the Big Care Debate has turned into a series of denials on a single part of the proposals.

Actual debate on other issues does not seem to be widespread, which is harming the chances of changing the social care system for the better. Millions of lives are affected by our social care system and millions more will be, but we as a general population are not engaging with this debate. Is it because we do not care, or is it because of a lack of knowledge?

I accept that whole family assessments does not make sexy news, but for families with multiple care needs this could be key to getting the support that is best for everybody and not just an individual (Phil Hope was very interested in this idea by the way). Perhaps most people have not considered whether there should be a single national assessment process or variable local ones, but surely this is highly relevant in a world where people move around more. Some may not know that you have to pay for social care and others may believe that they will never need it, but we should still be debating whether we should all pay regardless of whether we use social care or not.

Labour say the Tories won’t listen, but what are they meant to be listening to? I guess that is up to us all.

One thing we do want Labour to listen to is that PCTs are not using the £50m allocated to provide breaks for carers for that purpose. This is partly because of a lack of information given to PCTs by the Government. Secretary of State for Health Andy Burnham has said that he will listen and we are to set something up after the conference. However, listening is only one part, we want action. You can help by signing the carers breaks petition

Take Care

Gordon

September 28, 2009 Posted by | Labour, Party Conferences | , , , , , | 8 Comments