400m for carers is an excellent start but we must be ring-fenced says Saga Director-General, Dr Ros Altmann

Wednesday 17 November 2010

400m for carers is an excellent start but we must be ring-fenced says Saga Director-General, Dr Ros Altmann

Commenting on the announcement by the Care Services Minister, Paul Burstow today that the Government will create a £400m pot to send carers on respite breaks, Dr Ros Altmann, Director-General of Saga says;

“£400m to support respite for carers is an excellent start - but it is essential that these funds are ring-fenced. We do not want this pledge to be as hollow as that made by the last Government.

Saga has long recognised the importance of offering carers a break. Family carers are the UK's secret army of brave and resilient people who provide an estimated £80 billion worth of support to their loved ones. There is often no break, no respite from their 24/7 caring role. Which leaves many of them subject to emotional and physical stress that considerably impairs their own lives. Saga has established a special charity – Saga Respite for Carers Trust – to provide desperately needed beaks for carers each year.

One of the biggest issues facing family 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 previous 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 to carers.

Caring for a friend or loved one can be emotionally and physically draining, so it is important for carers to have a break to recharge their batteries. Over a third (37%)* of people with caring responsibilities feel that they now have less time and space to themselves. A quarter (26%) consider they have less time available to spend with other family members and 24% don’t have enough time to meet with friends or pursue leisure interests

In essence, the Saga Respite for Carers Trust is doing what government should have been doing providing respite breaks for long-term unpaid carers. Nominations and stories sent to the Saga Respite for Carers Trust paint a very stark picture of the lives of carers, one that shows that many 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.

Being able to take a break from their caring roles helps family carers continue to care, improves their lives and also the life of those for whom they care.

The difference that a break can make is best illustrated by some of the comments we receive from carers returning from a holiday paid for by the Saga Trust

Mr Thomson “Being awarded a holiday, and knowing that a major corporation had the interests of carers at heart greatly increased my self esteem. The holiday itself was first class, they even paid for my son’s respite care in our absence, I cannot thank the Saga Respite for Carers Trust enough. We are now back relaxed and happy and ready to face the future together”.

Mr David Lake "I am very grateful for all that the Trust has done for myself and my wife. I also feel very spoiled and privileged as well as quite humbled by the fact that anyone should care enough to do all of this on behalf of others, particularly carers".


Notes to editors

*Based on Saga Populus research, 9,053 responses from adults aged 50 and over to its online poll for SAGA between 9th and 16th May 2008

For available case study details or more information please contact the Saga Press Office on 01303 771529

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