With an election imminent and all parties scrambling to attract the older vote, older carers are evaluating the promises made by each party like never before. All parties have acknowledged the valuable contribution that home carers provide in the UK, one that saves the economy an billions, but the existing government has squandered their trust by making promises that are simply not delivered.
One of the biggest issues for the UK’s army of unpaid carers is the fact that almost a quarter (24 per cent) have never taken a holiday away from their caring responsibilities. This figure rises to 31 percent among those who have been carers for longer than 10 years. Despite the government’s commitment to provide funding for respite breaks, their failure to ring fence it has meant that in many of the Primary Care Trusts the funds are just not getting through.
Emma Soames, Trustee of the Saga Respite for Carers Trust, comments
“Unpaid carers are too often forgotten in today’s society. There are an estimated 5.2million home carers in the UK and they carry out a critical, yet thankless task without complaint, making it all too easy for government to overlook them. As a society we need to recognise their commitment by ensuring all carers can have a respite break, a small reward for such devotion.”
The Saga Respite Carers Trust is doing what government should do – provide respite breaks for long-term unpaid carers. Nominations and stories sent to the Saga Respite for Carers Trust paints a very stark picture of the lives of carers, , one that shows that many carers are reaching the end of their tether, their own health affected by the constant stress and demands of looking after a chronically ill or disabled loved one.
Emma continues: “Many of the carers who have had a proper break courtesy of the trust genuinely feared that they may have to put their loved one into care. They have been astounded by the positive effects a proper holiday has had on both their physical and mental well-being. Many feel that it has given them the drive and enthusiasm to continue to provide care in the home.”
The Saga Respite for Carers Trust responded to the ‘Case for Change’ consultation in an effort to ensure that the UKs army of unpaid carers are not forgotten in the forthcoming election. The manifestos from the three main parties include an element of support of carers, however their election manifesto promises have taken on different forms:-
Labour launched the national care service and have specified a further £100million for respite breaks for 2010/11, however to date their failure to ring fence funding has meant that in many cases the funds have been diverted to other trust expenditure.
The proposal by the Tories is to extend direct payments to help people take control of their care needs and improved access to respite care. This proposal will be warmly received but many, who are already struggling with local authority assessments, will question how this will really be implemented. What is also obvious by it's exclusion is the direct suggestion of the right of carers to a respite break.
Lib Dems, however, appear to have the proposal that will be most warmly received by Carers by offering a week's respite for one million carers who spend more than 50 hours a week providing care. This proposal clearly demonstrates the pressure on budgets as it would use money already earmarked for the personal care at home bill.
The government claimed to have listened to public opinion and announced a significant investment to provide essential support services for the UKs unpaid carers in the form of the National Carers Strategy. Whilst a good start, it’s going to be critical for the incoming government to ensure the funds allocated for this purpose are used to best effect going forward.
Nominations can be made on line at saga.co.uk/health/carers. The deadline for nominations to the trust is 31st August 2010. Terms apply.
Alternatively nomination forms can be obtained by writing to Saga Respite for Carers Trust , The Saga Building, Enbrook Park, Folkestone, Kent CT20 3SE.
*The Saga Populus Panel is the largest monthly poll of over 50s opinion and received over 9,000 responses to its May 2008 poll about caring. A summary of the results are available from the press office.
For more information please contact the Saga Press Office on 01303 771529.