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A society that respects, values and supports carers

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With the call for evidence for the new Carers Strategy now closed, Heléna Herklots, Chief Executive of Carers UK, reflects upon what carers may want to see from the new strategy.

Heléna Herklots: 'We must reach people earlier with information and support - we know that too many carers still do not get the right support, at the right time.'
Heléna Herklots: 'We must reach people earlier with information and support - we know that too many carers still do not get the right support, at the right time.'

Carers UK’s vision is of a society that respects, values and supports carers. The development of a new Carers Strategy provides us with an important opportunity to set out the changes that need to happen to turn this vision into a reality.

There has never been a more crucial time to look at what carers need, both now and in the future. More unpaid care than ever is being provided by family and friends already worth £132 billion per year and, with our ageing population, the demand for care is set to increase dramatically.

Longer working lives also mean more of us will be caring alongside work – something that’s vital for our financial security but also for our economy. Caring is something that affects everyone and at the heart of the new strategy must be the recognition that it is one of the most important things any of us do in our lives. We want to do it well, and we need others to value and support what we do.

Our response to the call for evidence is grounded in the lives of thousands of carers who have shared their experiences with us over several years. Using data and feedback including our annual State of Caring survey, Adviceline and Members Summit, we developed a number of key outcomes carers need to see for the strategy, based on the challenges carers face, and what they told us they want to achieve.

Carers-UK-logoImportantly, alongside the outcomes, we have set out concrete steps we believe the Government, working with others, need to take over the next five years, and beyond, to achieve them. These outcomes will act as a baseline for the success of the strategy – helping us measure its impact on carer’s lives.

So what are our key asks?

We must reach people earlier with information and support - we know that too many carers still do not get the right support, at the right time.

The strategy must have the ambition of improving financial support for carers at its core. Carers UK has long argued for changes to the structure and level of Carer’s Allowance and is pressing for a commitment to improve the benefit, alongside help with other living costs (such as council tax reductions for carers).

Alongside better financial support, new measures are needed to help carers juggle work and care. Specifically, we want to see a period of paid care put on a statutory footing, alongside an aim to make every workplace Carer Friendly.

Health and care services are a central part of carers’ lives, and we recommend the introduction of carer friendly hospitals, including a duty on the NHS to identify carers. This would ensure that carers are signposted to advice and information early in their caring journey, as well as recognise that carers are expert partners in care. Increased funding for social care services too is vital to make the Care Act real, alongside ring-fenced funding for carers breaks and a housing strategy that reflects the kinds of homes people need for caring.

Technology can play a significant role in making caring easier, and a new focus is needed on ensuring carers have access to the digital tools that can support them. This could be, for example, harnessing technology to deliver information and advice in a quick accessible way, to work remotely, to manage health appointments online or to provide reassurance that their loved one is safe.

All of us will be touched by caring in our lifetime, whether we take on a caring role or we need care ourselves. It’s vital that the Government listens to the needs and priorities of carers and, working with others, takes the opportunity of the strategy to transform the support available.

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  1. Comment by Derek C Bowgen posted on

    Have a look at the Attendance Allowance payable to those over 64 and terminally ill (usually with cancer). The chances are every government department will delay any claim simply by telling all and sundry that there is no such allowance. This was the reply from D.W.P after I sent a letter to the minister asking about it. I was advised to speak to the Job Centre manager but I had no response. I was also told to ask C.A.B but, in turn, I was told that they had no knowledge of this allowance. I anyone needs to know more, simply go on the web site of either Madam Curie and/or Macmillan Nurses. Full details are found here. Warning:- the delays encountered during a request and implementation will almost certainly have the claimant deceased before any claim succeeds. We do live in a most caring society, verbally but not doing.
    Want to know more?

    • Replies to Derek C Bowgen>

      Comment by Jennifer Thompson posted on

      Derek are you saying Attendance Allowance no longer exists?

    • Replies to Derek C Bowgen>

      Comment by John Bowles posted on

      Well said Derek - no further comment.

  2. Comment by Sabine posted on

    No dearest Heléna Herklots and Carers UK. NO! Do not play into the hands of this government any longer. There has to be an end to this waffle and whitewash. Carers don't want to be unpaid. full stop. We want to be paid adequately. We don't want handouts and/or benefits and rate reductions. We want hard cash. It is a total insult to assume we all want to do this for next to no money and security. This "society" has to accept that they have to pay their fair share. I don't give a peanut for their respect, value and support because they don't have that. Never have and never will.

  3. Comment by Yvette Wetton posted on

    Hi Helen, The work that we have been doing at Healthwatch Essex listening to the lived experiences of carers reflects the findings of Carers UK. We would agree that in addition to services that will wrap around their individual caring circumstances to avoid the frustrations of having to navigate systems which don’t recognise their role, carers need to be able to access information and support that is flexible and reactive to their changing needs and to know that it is there reaching out to them rather than having to find another hour in the day to find it. Overall carers want reassurance that when things begin to get too much, they can rely on the reciprocal report of services that they have implicitly supported through their caring role.

  4. Comment by Mrs Maureen RichardsMBE posted on

    No one ever seems to think of the mothers who have children born with or damaged in their delivery who have disabilities and will spend for some in their twenties plus the next twenty plus years as careers with no end in sight and at the end of their years find they have a reduced state pension to boot as they have not paid enough in employment to qualify for a full pension. Where is the justice in that!!!!

  5. Comment by Wendy Maxwell MBE posted on

    I have been saying for years that family carers need the internet to find support and friendship in their caring role. But over the years it has become more obvious that they also need training on how to use the internet. Many carers are stressed and do not have the time to undertake lessons on top of the already stressfull days they have. I think more needs to be done on advertising the forums so that carers can join and learn from one another, as our members have done over many years. For a year our small charity was able to do lessons in the carers home if they lived in Norfolk, this was greatly appreciated. I dont know what the answer is, without there is more help given to enable carers to understand the internet.
    Thanks Helena for a great article, when society truely respects the family carer it will be a rewarding day.

  6. Comment by E.Blanche posted on

    As a carer and also a Carers UK volunteer I am aware that-there is an assumption not only that carers are too tired,stressed etc to use modern technology but also that they can actually AFFORD the hardware, software, technical support and training. Even if they know how, many carers do not have family able to help. Neither do they have resources when the technology fails to buy in technical services and help. I have a landline, no mobile, live alone since the person I cared for died. Whilst I have two pensions, I rent in London and do not have anything spare for new technology

  7. Comment by Jo Empson posted on

    I'd be keen to know how Carers U.K. are following up on the need for a revised Carers Strategy please? The current strategy was published in 2008.... the calls for evidence and consultation were managed in July 2015, 2 years ago so a new strategy must be due.... I have been seeking advice on this myself, but not yet heard.... can I also ask why there is so little mention of how broader society and big business can improve a Carers experience - the Care Act speaks about access/ability to live life as others do and it would be good to start a discussion with big business/retail etc etc re how they can be more Carer friendly both in regard to customers and staff