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Carers’ issues a hot topic in Scottish election

Note: This is a joint blog from Lynn Williams, Fiona Collie and Claire Cairns who have been leading the National Carer Organisation Election Campaign in Scotland

We are moving into the final days of the election campaign in Scotland and the issues affecting carers and young carers have become a hot topic. Over the last few weeks carers’ organisations have worked hard to ensure that carers and young carers alike have had a chance to question candidates and influence parties’ thinking. Through the press, through on line media and face to face with candidates, carers and young carers have been heard loud and clear on what matters most to them and to their families.

This election marks a turning point for carers; every party has in some form or another directly recognised their contribution with a string of manifesto pledges made which seek to improve carers’ and young carers lives.

Claire Cairns, Fiona Collie and Lynn Williams

Launching the Carers Manifesto at the Scottish Parliament

We very much welcome specific pledges which seek to involve carers and young carers at the very heart of Government in Scotland. These commitments include Scottish Labour’s pledge to install a Cabinet level Carers’ Champion who can lead and work across all policy areas in Government. The party is also pledging to set up a Carers’ Summit to enable a Scottish Labour Government (or coalition administration involving Labour) to shape policies and decisions affecting carers’ lives (link to Labour party pledges to follow).

The SNP have pledged to deliver an annual Carers’ Parliament to give carers and young carers a direct say in the work of the Government and the Scottish Parliament. http://manifesto.votesnp.com/carers.

If realised, any one of these commitments will give carers and young carers a voice in shaping decisions that affect their lives at the highest levels of Government.

Other parties such as the Scottish Lib Dems are looking to extend the rights that carers have and improve local service delivery. http://www.scotlibdems.org.uk/files/SLD2011manifesto.pdf.

Labour join the Lib Dems in pledging to investigate a right to respite for carers. http://www.scottishlabour.org.uk/uploads/938e3455-1814-0b84-e115-8ddec3a327b5.pdf

Meanwhile, the Scottish Conservatives have costed a substantial investment in additional respite and many of the smaller parties have made a range of commitments to carers. http://www.scottishconservatives.com/downloads/scottish-conservative-manifesto-2011.pdf

Carers’ issues are indeed one of this election’s hot topics. But one commentator in the press recently said that manifestos are not worth the paper they are written on – and that might well be the case.

But as part of Scotland’s Carers Organisations we are making our own pledge to you – that we will work together tirelessly to bring parties to account whether in Government or opposition on the pledges they have made. We will continue to work directly with Ministers and MSPs in opposition to build on what has already been achieved for Scotland’s carers; we are also already planning for the Scottish Local Elections next year – service delivery locally is a key concern.

So there is much to look forward to and much still to do. Please continue to work with us to help make the lives of Scotland’s carers and young carers the best that they can be – to ensure that their contribution is truly recognised. Our Scottish Carers’ Manifesto – shaped by carers and young carers – will continue to be the basis for our campaigning work at national and local level. You can also continue to have your say on our ‘Carers Votes Count’ Facebook pages.

To the 5th May and beyond!!

Lynn, Claire and Fiona On behalf of Scotland’s National Carer Organisations

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May 2, 2011 Posted by | General Election, Scotland | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Carer Votes Count in Scotland

Note: The following blog post has been written by Lynn Williams, the Policy Officer (Scotland) for The Princess Royal Trust for Carers.

So a few weeks into the election campaign in Scotland and already the issues affecting Scotland’s 657,000 unpaid

MSPs pledging support for carers

carers have featured in most party manifestos as well as in the press. The BBC “Big Debate” on Living Longer had carers in the audience – Caroline gave a very moving insight into her journey as a carer for her parents.  The launch of specific manifesto pledges for unpaid carers by the SNP at the Glasgow South East Carer Centre also picked up some coverage.

Before looking at what parties are committing to (and we know that a commitment doesn’t necessarily mean that something will actually happen!) it’s important to review where we are first.

Over the last four years, political parties have delivered a lot of warm words about the contribution of unpaid carers – and young carers.  There have been some policy gains in the last four years around additional investment in respite, funding which has benefitted the work of carers’ organisations, and the publication of the new Carers and Young Carers’ Strategies in Scotland. So, some good news.

What is becoming increasingly clear however – from contacts on Facebook (See our Carers Votes Count Facebook pages;  from feedback from Carers Centres who are on the frontline and from colleagues in other carers’ organisations is that unpaid carers and their families and are at the hard end of local cuts. The campaign pages for Scotland ACT Now for Autism provide stories from across the country and parent- carers open their hearts about the daily fights they endure for their children.

This is before we even get to the impact of the welfare reform agenda coming from Westminster to a town or city near you. So from the perspective of Scotland’s carers and from the perspective of The Princess Royal Trust for Carers – warm words are fine; promises are fine – but it’s now time for action.

So what are the parties actually saying? We have published summaries of the four main Scottish parties’ manifestos and the pledges that they have made.

So what does this all mean?

The answer is – not a lot. But manifestos give some indication of the level of commitment to unpaid carer and young carers. They can also help carers to decide who to vote for especially if they remain undecided.

What happens after the election is more important – what commitments actually become reality and do they make any REAL difference to the lives of carers such as Clare Lally, Sandra Webster, Teresa Catto Smith and others who are regularly posting on our election Facebook pages – Carers Votes Count.  Their stories tell us that the political parties still have a long way to go.

A number of carers have told us that they remain undecided as to how to vote and that they want to see specific pledges which will help improve their lives.  There may well indeed be up to 657,000 votes up for grabs! Therefore, until the next election blog, please continue to lobby your candidates, attend any local hustings events and please contact us here or via Facebook with the issues that affect you as carers or young carers in Scotland.

Lynn

April 19, 2011 Posted by | Benefits, breaks for carers, Budget, Carers movement, Carers Strategy, General Election, Scotland | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment