EMMA LEWELL-BUCK: The voices of carers must be heard

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This week is Dementia Awareness Week and we should take the time to thank the millions of unpaid carers who support their relatives, friends and neighbours who suffer not only from this terrible disease but also those who have other disabilities.

In the North East alone there are an estimated 25,841 people living with dementia. Over the coming years this figure is projected to rise with more than one million people forecast to be living with dementia in the UK by 2021.

Living with dementia often means that people need assistance with everyday tasks such as washing, cleaning, ironing, cooking, shopping, managing finances and providing transport to medical appointments. In the UK we have an army of unpaid carers carrying out this work on behalf of their relatives and loved ones.

Considering that the average cost of a year’s dementia care alone is £32, 250 and overall there are 6.5 million carers in the UK it is time the Government recognised the invaluable contribution carers make not just in terms of dementia care but all carers.

This is why recently I was outraged to discover that the introduction of this Governments version of the Living Wage (which falls short of the true Living Wage) has resulted in hundreds, if not more carers now no longer qualifying for Carers Allowance, as their earnings threshold has been exceeded. This is placing carers in a terrible situation where they are having to juggle their caring and work responsibilities with a financial shortfall.

When the Chancellor announced the Living Wage he should have ensured that an impact assessment was completed to iron out any irregularities prior to its introduction but he choose not to.

I have raised this with the Government and will continue to put them under pressure to rectify this, but I have a sinking feeling that this scenario is not going to be the only problem with the Governments slap dash way of introducing the Living Wage.

Carers Week is also approaching us from June 6-12. Carers save the UK economy an estimated £119 billion and with the shocking news recently that over the last seven years the number of people in their 80s or older who are carers it is time the Government addressed the total crisis in our NHS and social care services.

With a predicted funding gap in adult social care of £4.3 billion by 2020 and a predicted funding gap of £30 billion per year in the NHS by 2021 it is difficult to see how without a fundamental rethink of how these services are funded and a significant cash injection how carers will not be relied upon more and more in the coming years.

Caring can cost people their careers, health, savings and friendships. It is impossible to value such huge personal cost and no one should have to care alone. I will continue to campaign in Parliament so that the voices of carers are heard and let all of us do what we can to help.

Carers Association in South Tyneside - tel: 454 3346