Personal Care at Home Bill

14th December 2009

Brooks Newmark presses the Government on what help and support can be given to carers - not on a financial basis, but on an enabling basis.

Mr. Brooks Newmark (Braintree) (Con): I believe that when the right hon. Gentleman was a Health Minister he made the point that the vast number of people in all our constituencies who work very hard on a voluntary basis to support families and friends save the state enormous amounts of money, and I wonder whether his analysis puts a value on that. More importantly, what support is he proposing to give to these individuals who are spending enormous amounts of their time to help relatives?

Andy Burnham: I agree with the hon. Gentleman's point: informal carers save billions of pounds that otherwise would have to be met by state-provided support. The actual figure has been costed by Carers UK and others, and it is huge. [Interruption.] My hon. Friend the Minister says that the sum is £80 billion. Carers do not see their care in monetary terms, however; they would always look after their loved ones.

Let me explain to the hon. Gentleman what is squarely my intention in respect of carers in reforming the system and bringing forward the National Care Service. We will always have to depend on their love and support for their families, but we can do better in making their life more tolerable, such as by letting them call down the support when they need it, rather than when the system says that they should get it. It is a fundamental part of any reform of social care that we provide to the many informal carers in this country the kind of back-up and support that makes being a carer tolerable and that allows them to balance that with all the other demands on their life. For me, that is a crucial aspect of creating a higher quality care system.

Mr. Newmark: The Secretary of State's comments will be extremely helpful to my constituents in Braintree. Each and every week I meet one or two people who give a lot of their time, and who ask me, "Can the state to do more to help me, not on a financial basis, but on an enabling basis?" If the Secretary of State could give me one or two examples of how his Government will do that, that would be helpful.

Andy Burnham: I can give a very specific example. The hon. Gentleman may know that last year we asked primary care trusts to fund respite care for carers and for breaks, and I believe it was the first year that that requirement was included in the operating framework. Some analysis has been done, not least by the Princess Royal Trust for Carers, on whether that has been fully implemented around the country. I have been considering whether we can strengthen the language relating to that commitment as part of this year's operating framework.


Mr. Newmark: When I asked the Minister about the cost of individuals giving up their time-constituents in Braintree often tell me about the time that they give-the figure was some £80 billion. That represents what all our constituents collectively do by way of giving to family members and close friends. However, there is a sense of social contract and obligation that the Government should have in respect of our constituents who put in time-that is, non-financial benefits and non-financial support. Has my hon. Friend thought through these issues and the shortcomings of the Bill with respect to the non-financial support that the Government should give to our constituents?

Mr. Hayes: Indeed. That very good point was made not only by my hon. Friend, but also by the hon. Member for South Thanet (Dr. Ladyman), who speaks with some authority on these matters. The hon. Gentleman asked the Secretary of State about the relationship with carers and the effect of the Bill on carers. In doing so, he was echoing the sentiments so strongly expressed when the Bill that the present Bill amends was introduced in the House back in 2002.

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