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Sunday, 28 February 2010

A week's respite care for a million carers

I warmly welcome Nick Clegg’s recent pledge of a week’s funded respite care for the million carers who currently provide more than 50 hours of care per week. I am filled with admiration for all carers, including those who do it for more than 50 hours a week. The least they deserve is a week’s break each year, with respite care funded by the Government. We would fund this by scrapping Labour's botched care proposals and re-allocating the money to this Lib  Dem respite care proposal. This could mean a great deal to many carers living locally in Hendon constituency. In the same speech last Monday, Nick Clegg pledged to establish a commission, with cross-party support, to develop proposals for long-term care of the elderly, which will be tasked to report back within one year.

Details of the policy are set out below:

The Policy in Brief

There are close to five million unpaid carers in England, with a million providing more than 50hrs care each week. Liberal Democrats believe that people who selflessly provide care to their loved ones deserve a break. In most jobs you get paid holidays but for a huge number of carers that simply isn’t an option. We believe that respite care is a lifeline - not just for carers but for whole families. That’s why we will provide a weeks break from caring every year to the million unpaid carers who provide more than 50 hours care each week.

Why is it necessary?

Caring matters deeply to families and individuals but when you are taking care of somebody you also need to think about caring for yourself. The millions of unpaid carers in this country deserve as much support as possible and that is why we will provide a week of guaranteed respite care each year for a million carers who work the longest hours. This also makes financial sense because carers who don’t get a break can often end up suffering health problems themselves. Sustaining the ability of carers to provide the care and support they give to others is of critical importance.

Policy Detail

We will provide a week's respite care to the million carers in England who currently provide more than 50 hours of care every week. Each carer will be entitled to receive a personal budget each year equivalent to the cost of a care homes weekly charge to redeem with whichever local service they choose.

How you use your personal budget will depend on your own circumstances. The money can be used to take one break or a series of breaks, for example: to get someone to take over caring for several weekends while the carer takes a break; payment towards the cost of the person you care for going away leaving you to take a break at home; arranging for someone to look after the person you care for at home while you go away; payment towards the cost of a break for you both together.

Each Local Health Board (currently Primary Care Trusts) will receive a block grant dependent on an assessment of the needs of their local populace and the costs of care in their local area. Local Authorities are already equipped to carry out assessments of the needs of the people requiring care, and the needs of their carers. Once such an assessment has been made and the person is considered to eligible they will be able to apply to their Local Health Board for funding for respite care. By operating the system in this way we hope to encourage improved partnerships between the NHS, social care and third sectors, in looking after the needs of carers.

Costs/Savings

We will provide a week’s respite care to the million carers in England who currently provide more than 50 hours of care every week. The total cost of this scheme will start from 460m in 2010-11 rising to 500m in 2014-15. Some people will not want to take part in the scheme and some will already qualify for respite care through local authority funding. We have therefore assumed a 90% take-up rate for this scheme.

We will pay for this by using the 420m of health funding that the government intends to use for the Personal Care at Home Bill. And we supplement this money with the 100m that has already been allocated by the Department of Health for respite care through the Carers Strategy.

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