Unpaid carers are unsung heroes who should be valued more by Government - Emma Lewell-Buck MP
This week is Carer’s Week, a week that celebrates, recognises and highlights the vital contribution made by the UK’s 6.5 million unpaid carers, an estimated 800,000 of which are children.
These are children and adults caring for a loved one or relative who is suffering from illness, disability, a mental health condition or other need as they grow older.
My own families’ experience mirrors that of other carers I have spoken to, the feeling of being let down financially, physically and emotionally by the state.
Caring for a person can be a lonely and isolating experience without the added pressures of being trapped in a system of crippling care costs, intense bureaucracy and dismissive professionals.
It is little wonder that recent statistics from Carers UK show that carers compared to the rest of the population are disproportionally anxious, lonely and unhappy.
However, there is not a single carer I know who would give up caring for their neighbour, relative or loved one - and this is something the Government shamefully relies on.
They know that this love and dedication means carers will keep going no matter what.
Our Government could make a difference for these unsung heroes and show they value them and the saving they make to the economy of up to £132billion per year.
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But time and time again they choose not to, instead they have continued decimate social care budgets, rip apart the welfare safety net and firmly embed privatisaiton in the care sector.
The Government’s announcement just this week of £5million worth of funding for the Carers Innovation Fund is yet another example of a piecemeal, tokenistic gesture to make it look like the Government are supporting carers when in fact, they are doing the opposite.
This fund will do nothing to improve the lives of unpaid carers or address the fact that social care spending is now less than Labour was spending in 2010, £7billion has been cut from adult social care alone against a backdrop of increased need, the result has been carers are no longer getting any breaks, respite or assistance.
For Government to deliver though they need to actually care or see this as a priority, and the Conservatives don’t, they have no strategy to deliver proper funding and support for carers or social care, as evidenced by the yet to appear Adult Social Care Green Paper first promised in the summer of 2017.
By contrast the last Labour Government launched two Carers Strategies that genuinely made a difference to carers lives.
The next Labour Government will develop a National Strategy for Carers and increase Carers Allowance in line with Job Seekers Allowance.
As part of our National Care Service, we will also invest in social care because those caring and those being cared for deserve better.