Many unpaid carers tell me they feel pushed to breaking point. I’ve lost count of the number of times families say they have to battle all the different services to try and get the support they need. Family carers are twice as likely to be in poor health and one in three has to give up their job or reduce their hours in order to care. Often, people aren’t getting help because they don’t see themselves as a carer – they are just a son or daughter, husband or wife, doing what they can to help someone they love.
Unpaid carers make a huge contribution to their families and our community and, as family life changes, more and more of us will find ourselves looking after our elderly or disabled relatives. There are already numerous unpaid family carers in Wyre Forest and three in five of us will be an unpaid carer at some point in our lives. It can be tough, so we’ll need a government that’s firmly on our side.
It’s not right that people who do so much get so little in return. It also doesn’t make economic sense if a lack of support early on results in families reaching crisis point, with carers either falling ill or being forced to quit work, because of their caring responsibilities.
We need action to give families the support they need. That’s why I’m proud to support Labour’s pledge to help people in Wyre Forest who are caring for elderly or disabled relatives.
Labour’s Shadow Minister for Care and Older People, Liz Kendall, has announced that a Labour government will introduce a new duty on the NHS to identify family carers, so that they can get the right help and support, and give carers a new right to ask for an annual health check.
Families caring for people with the greatest needs will have a single point of contact with care services, so they don’t have to battle different parts of the system and tell their story time and time again.
Caring can be really demanding and many people desperately need a break from time to time. Labour will ensure that the funding currently identified for carers’ breaks is properly ring-fenced to make sure all of the money goes to family carers. We will also consult with employers, trade unions and carers organisations on how to improve flexible working, which could include measures such as a new period of ‘adjustment leave’ to help families cope with a short-term crisis.
Labour recognises the additional costs that many carers face. That’s why we will abolish the bedroom tax, which hits tens of thousands of carers, and include family carers in the groups who can be eligible for hospital car parking concessions.
Having seen first-hand the difficult job that those who are caring for family members do, in very difficult circumstances, I know that these measures will make a real and practical difference to many families in Wyre Forest.