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Young carers wiped off the map of financial support

If you were anything like me when I was a teenager, then you’ll have thought it was pretty tough. Pressure all round – to Young carer helping his brotherbe the same as your friends and fit in, to try to look good despite the spots, to succeed in exams, and all the hormones and other challenges that go with growing up and finding your place in the world.

To be honest I had it pretty easy. Young carers have got all this plus their caring responsibilities – perhaps looking after a mum or dad with a mental health problem, or a health condition like MS or cancer or a sibling with a disability, or looking after the other kids and the house because mum or dad aren’t able to. We know that one of the main caring roles young carers take on is emotional support – extremely demanding on a young person not yet sure of their emotions themselves . Although many young carers can and do succeed despite the difficulties, many others lose out on school, miss opportunities to develop friendships, miss chances to take part in activities which others take for granted.

Education Maintenance Allowance was one benefit that really helped young carers. For those young carers that bit of cash helped them stay at school and gave them a chance. That money wasn’t an extra luxury – it was money which formed an essential part of their family income. We know, because we asked them. EMA was quietly whipped away in England and Wales with no consultation, in the early days of the Coalition Government ( it still remains in Scotland). The Government said it was ineffective. I don’t know how they came to this conclusion seeing as they didn’t really ask.

Today Barnardo’s have published a reporting looking at the impact of the replacement 16-19 Bursary, which some young people can get, but misses out many thousands of young carers who previously would have qualified for EMA. The term they use is “disastrous”. One young carer called Foram who looks after her mother with bipolar disorder is in desperate straits:

Foram frequently misses meals or alternates eating with her sister who is in the year above her. They are putting their own health at risk to hide the financial situation from their mother. Not surprisingly, Foram is suffering from depression and anxiety herself.

The poorest students are being failed and young carers, in particular, miss out and may have to drop out of school. And of course young carers in full time education can’t get Carers Allowance either.

I wonder how anyone thinks a young carer is supposed to survive let alone flourish when they’re wiped off the map of financial support. Barnardo’s suggest all 16-19s in full time education who used to be on free school meals should get the bursary – that would pick up young carers on low incomes and would cost less than EMA did. To give young carers a chance at a future, that sounds cheap to me.

Barnardo’s report “Staying the course” is at http://www.barnardos.org.uk/stayingthecourse.pdf

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February 7, 2012 Posted by | Young carers | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

NHS cannot avoid their duties to carers

The Government has made an immediate response to our ‘NHS Not Making the Break for Carers’ report by prioritising carers in the NHS Operating Framework for 2012/13. The Operating Framework is the set of requests given to the NHS by the Department of Health every year, guiding their priorities.

Following our report, the Government has said that carers is one of only three areas that have been designated as requiring “particular attention”. Think of all the illnesses, diseases, long-term conditions and medical issues the NHS is concerned with, and then consider what it means that carers are up there as the most important priority.

Of course, the reason that the NHS needs to pay “particular attention” is because they have not been doing enough to support carers, despite additional money and Government requests to do so. This Operating Framework is a sign that Health Ministers Paul Burstow and Andrew Lansley are losing their patience having been quite clear what they expected from the NHS in terms of supporting carers.

What they didn’t expect was that most Primary Care Trusts (PCTs – local NHS bodies) would not publish plans and budgets to support carers despite being asked to; and that some would continue not to invest a single pound in services to support carers, despite receiving additional money for this.

So for 2012/13, PCTs need to agree plans and budgets with local authorities and local carers’ charities. These plans should identify how much of the total is being spent on breaks and indicate the number of breaks that should be available from that funding. Importantly, PCTs have to publish these details on their websites by 30th September 2012 at the latest.

But we can’t wait until then to act. Carers and carers’ charities need to be contacting their local PCT now to find out how they will be improving on what they were doing this year. PCTs by ranking in terms of spending on services for carers and ask the non-Executive Directors of your PCT what they will do to improve that.

The NHS has a duty to those people who have often sacrificed so much to care for people, and they also have a duty of care to their patients who are otherwise being cared for by their friends and family. Our message should echo that of the Government’s; the NHS can no longer avoid their duty to carers.

Take care
Gordon

November 30, 2011 Posted by | Health | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments