MP calls on government to assist carers

“Unmissable” oportunity highlighted in keynote speech.

Birmingham MP Jack Dromey has called on the government to help unpaid carers by ending the funding crisis in social care. He made his statement at a public rally attended by unpaid carers in Birmingham. The rally was supported by Carers Trust, the national charity for unpaid carers.

Mr Dromey also sent an open letter to the Chancellor George Osborne explaining why he thinks next week’s Spending Review marks an “unmissable” opportunity to protect the UK’s social care system from crisis.

The Erdington MP said, “With an ageing population and more people requiring care it is absolutely vital that the Government immediately address the chronic underfunding of the care sector. On the one hand, unpaid carers are too often plunged into financial difficulties or ill health themselves due to the strain of caring. On the other hand, social care is facing an enormous funding gap that, if not plugged, will push the NHS to breaking point. There are currently 112,000 carers in Birmingham and they deserve a fair deal.

“Voluntary carers who step into the breach to care for relatives or friends provide care to the value of £132bn nationwide, almost equivalent to the entire amount the Government spends on health. What they do that a value cannot be put on, however, is to give emotional support to those who they care for. George Osborne must act to extend a helping hand to these extraordinary members of our community instead of, as he has done, continue to make their lives even more challenging than they are.

“Social care, meanwhile, faces a £4.3 billion gap in funding by 2020. If this is not corrected then countless vulnerable people will be forced to go to or stay in hospital. Cuts to local councils have already had a huge impact on the level of social care that can be provided; any more and we will be facing a care crisis. Not only will this have a devastating effect on those who need care but it will place the NHS under huge strain at a time when it is already facing enormous pressures.

“Next week, in the Spending Review, George Osborne has the opportunity to back those who care and those they care for. I urge him to hear their voice and the voices of the Carers Trust and Carers UK. None so noble as those who care. They deserve every support.”

Moira Fraser, Director of Policy and Research at Carers Trust, addedd, “Every day unpaid carers are giving up their time and energy to look after people who would not be able to cope without their support. That contribution is worth £132 billion per year – more than the annual budget given to the NHS. In return, we simply ask that carers are given the help they need to look after their own health. Sadly the last five years have seen the rug pulled out from underneath the feet of carers as support services across the country have started to close as a result of this government’s funding cuts.

“This November the government has a unique opportunity to reverse that trend and pledge their support to unpaid carers by ending year-on-year cuts to social care and investing funds in a social care system which is on its last legs. Otherwise, carers’ health will continue to suffer and that will only have a detrimental impact on the wellbeing of the people they are caring for. Next week could be a step on the road to creating a carer-friendly society.”

Since 2010 government funding for local councils has fallen by 40% and as a result social care services have had to absorb spending cuts of £700 million. This has meant that services providing help to older people, people with disabilities, and their carers have been scaled back or closed down. In the last five years, the number of people accessing support services has fallen by 25% although the number of people needing support has continued to rise as our population ages.

In their submission to the 2015 Spending Review the charity Carers Trust issued an urgent call on the government to plug the gap in social care funding and ensure that existing law designed to support carers, like the 2014 Care Act, are fully funded.