Response from Paul Burstow re LibDem policies for carers

30 July 2014

Recently CarerWatch posted a response relating to a manifesto promise for carers from the LibDems.  You can read it here

We received wide spread support for the post, and also exchanged tweets with Paul Burstow, Liberal Democrat MP for Sutton and Cheam. As a result we contacted Mr Burstow asking if he wished to respond more fully to our comments.  (Many carers are tied to the home and engaging online is their only way of engaging with politicians.)

You can read his reply below……..

Feel free to add comments/questions. We will be sending copies to Mr Burstow, along with politicians from other parties.  Any replies will be posted in the open again.

 

A few weeks ago Nick Clegg announced the first of a series of policies for carers.  The Carer’s Bonus, £250 paid annually, on top of the Carers Allowance, for the carer to use as they see fit.  The proposal sparked a lot of debate, and CarerWatch posted a strong critique of the plan.  I am grateful for the opportunity to respond.

Caring responsibilities can come at any time in a person’s life and can exact a heavy price in both health and wealth. About 6 in 10 of us will become carers at some point in our lives, and 45% of carers have given up work to care.

The bonus idea was developed by the Liberal Democrats Ageing Society Working Group, which I chair, as part of our Age Ready Britain policy paper.

The bonus would be paid annually to Carers to use as they see fit, for example as a contribution toward extra costs such as taking a break. To start with it would be set at £125, doubling to £250 no later than 2020. The Bonus is more like a direct payment to contribute to things like respite care. It is not intended to be an answer to all the financial challenges faced by Carers.

This would put extra money in Carers’ hands to make their own decisions about how it can best support them.  The Carer’s Bonus marks out our commitment to promoting the wellbeing of carers and is the first of a number of proposals aimed at better supporting carers that we spell out in our policy paper Age Ready Britain which will be published in September.

The £250 payment would be available to around a million people based on underlying entitlement to the benefit. So, for example, pensioners who are eligible for Carers allowance but because of overlapping benefit rules do not receive it would receive the Bonus.  It would start at £125 and increase year on year to £250 no later than 2020.

The proposal builds on measures we have taken in Government like investing £400mn in NHS funded respite breaks, or new rights for Carers in the Care Act and Children and Families Act, and rights to flexible working.

I agree with the comments about the earnings disregard and the withdrawal of the benefit when engaged in education and these are issues we address on Age Ready Britain.

Thank you for the opportunity to respond.

Paul

* Paul Burstow is Liberal Democrat MP for Sutton and Cheam.

 

 

 

CarerWatch response to LibDems manifesto promise for carers

6 July 2014

According to Mr Clegg, some carers experience ‘an unbearable burden’. As such, under the LibDem election promise, they will receive a ‘reward’ paid annually to allow them to have a break. This ‘reward’? £125 a year paid to those who receive carers allowance only. He suggests that ‘ Some carers might use the money to hire a care assistant to help them out for a week’

How out of touch are the Lib Dems?

 

Mr Clegg, have you ever tried to employ a care assistant for £125 a week? 

Mr Clegg, have you ever tried working 24/7 and only having one week a year off? (Many carers get no breaks at all)

Mr Clegg, are you aware that many carers are not entitled to Carers Allowance

Carers do not want you to ‘show our thanks and ease the pressure the nation’s carers face’ by giving some of us a paltry £125 a year.

pennies

Carers Allowance is paid at a rate below that of all other income replacement benefits. Consequently any annual uprating has a minimal impact and does not reflect the rise in the cost of living, reducing carers spending power year on year and increasing the income gap between carers and the rest of society.

Carers in receipt of other income replacement benefits are excluded from claiming Carers Allowance due to the overlapping benefit rule.

Carers who have previously been entitled to Carers Allowance find that this is removed on reaching retirement age causing distress and anger, this can be after decades of caring for a sick or disabled relative.

The current £102 earnings limit at which Carers Allowance is withdrawn is a disincentive for carers who could combine work and caring to contemplate work or, for those in part-time employment, to increase their hours.

The withdrawal of Carers Allowance when a carer embarks on an educational course at college or university that entails more than 21 hours study per week acts as a barrier to carers wishing to engage in education and training in order to update their skills with a view to entering or re-entering the workplace. Many financially-assisted educational courses do not have Carers Allowance on their list of qualifying benefits for reduced fees, making engaging in education unaffordable.

Correction added, thanks to Charles47  ( The blog has a mistake: the 21 hour rule is notional. If the course is for (example) 10 hours only, but the college or university calls it a full time course – you lose your Carers Allowance. So for many carers, there’s no incentive to train.)

For many carers, caring is a full-time occupation. In order to qualify for Carers Allowance, either paid or underlying,  a carer must spend a minimum of 35 hours caring per week, many carers care for substantially more than the minimum 35 hours. Although not perceived as such, caring is a full-time job and can involve meeting physical needs, psychological needs and social needs, supervision, prompting, dealing with health and care services, managing finances, medication, cleaning, shopping, virtually every aspect of daily living.

Carers have no regular hours of work, have no entitlement to breaks, days off, holidays or sick leave, they are not covered by health and safety legislation and frequently suffer injury as a consequence of caring. For the majority of full-time carers employment is not an option, for those they care for, being left with strangers is not an option.

Scissors

The real term reductions in Treasury funding for local authorities has resulted in tightening eligibility criteria, the closure of day centres and increased care costs, reducing the number of people able to access or afford social care. Family carers are increasingly providing the care that would have been previously been provided by the State.

All governments, past and present, have demonstrably failed to meet the financial needs of carers who do not have the option of taking up employment.

CarerWatch members believe that family carers are not an optional extra to be added on as an after thought.  ALL political parties need to amend their attitude towards family carers and make some speed in deciding how to adequately fund family carers.

To this end, we strongly advise Mr Clegg and his party to go back to the drawing board.

Carers do not need half baked promises/policies that will bring about so little change for so few carers.

Leaders-debate-002

Time will tell what manifesto promises Labour and Conservative parties bring forth. We remember well the hustings of 2010.

Carer issues were aired more than ever, and yet there has been NO real improvements.

Watch this space

 

.Please feel free to leave comments below

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Employment and Support Allowance and Work Capability Assessments – Work and Pensions Committee Report

23 July 2014
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This is what multi party Select Committees were invented for. As a safety measure for situations exactly like this – when the main political parties cause a disaster and then gang up and turn their faces to the wall and refuse to see the enormous harm their misguided policies are causing.
Work and Pensions Select Committee
 
This report has been written by MPs who actually understand what is happening to sick and disabled people on the ground.
***********************************************

Work and Pensions Committee
Select Committee Press Notice

AN06 2014-15
22 July 2014

Under embargo until 00.01am on Wednesday 23 July 2014

Report: Employment and Support Allowance and Work Capability Assessmentsread report here

List of conclusions and recommendations here  

Employment and Support Allowance is not achieving its aims and needs fundamental
redesign, say MPs

The flaws in the Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) system are so grave that simply “rebranding” the assessment used to determine eligibility for ESA (the Work Capability Assessment (WCA)) by appointing a new contractor will not solve the problems, says the Work and Pensions Committee in a report published today.

The Committee calls on the Government to undertake a fundamental redesign of the ESA end-to-end process to ensure that the main purpose of the benefit – helping claimants with health conditions and disabilities to move into employment where this is possible for them – is achieved. This will take some time, but the redesign should be completed before the new multi-provider contract is tendered, which is expected to be in 2018.

In the meantime, the Committee recommends a number of changes which should be made now, to help ensure that claimants receive an improved service, and that the outcomes for claimants are more appropriate.

Dame Anne Begg MP, Committee Chair, said:

Read the rest of this entry »

Nick Clegg finally speaks up for disabled people

17 July 2014

Below is an open letter we have sent to him today.

Please write too and ask him to take the threats and coercion off the WRAG.

 

Dear Mr Clegg

Pat’s Petition is a group that campaigns for disabled people. CarerWatch is  a group that campaigns for carers.

Before you entered the Coalition we had a lot of support from the LibDems –  especially from Baroness Celia Thomas.

We are writing to you to tell you how pleased we are that you have made this  announcement about the Bedroom Tax. As you say – the penalties contained in  the legislation are not achieving the desired result because people aren’t able to move to smaller properties. In the case of disabled people leaving  converted properties and supportive local networks also makes no sense.

We are writing to ask you if you could similarly examine the coercive  threats in the Work Related Activity Group (WRAG) of the Employment and  Support Allowance (ESA).

These penalties are also not achieving the desired result of getting sick  and disabled people in to work. The statistics speak for themselves.

Sanctions, forced activity, time limits and an absurdly low level means test are causing panic and fear of the WRAG. People are so fearful of being  allocated to the WRAG that the appeals system is broken. Fear of sanctions  with no way forward is cruel.

We sincerely hope that the LibDems will once more become the party that  supports disabled people and carers.

Pat x
Pat’s Petition

Frances
CarerWatch

The Nine most terrifying words in the English Language are….

15 July 2014

 

………………… I’m from the government, and I’m here to help

 

copied from  mental health & mental healthcare blog

Compulsory treatment and benefit sanctions: stoking fear and prejudice for political ends

Benefits Street arrived on the iPads of Telegraph readers on Saturday night. A story about scroungers refusing help to get back on their feet and the Conservative party’s proposed “tough love” solution provoked strong reactions. And that’s no surprise.

People with mental health problems who are unable to work and dependent on state support were led to believe that payments would be docked if they refused treatment. This would effectively make state-sanctioned treatment compulsory on pain of losing your only source of income. Telegraph readers were fed the line that people with common mental health problems were willfully refusing to engage with treatments almost guaranteed to succeed just so that they could lounge about at taxpayers’ expense; but reassured that the Tories had proposed a simple and cost-effective solution (sanctions and compulsory treatment) to get people back to work.

IDS1

Although at first glance the story might follow a coherent line, at second glance it became clear there was more to it. None of the reasons for publishing the story (see below) had anything to do with the advice of mental health professionals nor with helping people with mental health problems back into paid work: people with mental health problems are being used as pawns in a game of politics.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Do you have experience of Palliative Care services?

10 July 2014

I’ve been engaged by Marie Curie to research the experiences of disabled people when they reach the end of their life – in other words, disabled people who had palliative care.

I’m looking to interview carers of disabled people who have sadly passed away.

Marie curie

 

These will be telephone interviews lasting no longer than 20 minutes. Total anonymity is guaranteed.  The stories (good and bad) will be fed to Marie Curie who hope to publish a report in the Autumn which is likely to recommend change.  The calls are completely unscripted and allow people an opportunity, in free flow, to talk about their loved ones’ experiences.

People are very welcome to email me at this address

mark.shrimpton@disabilitysolutionsworldwide.com

You are also welcome to note that I have had personal experience of this issue.

Thanks so much.

Mark Shrimpton.

 

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Financial hardship of carers

2 July 2014

Thursday July 3rd 2014 in House of Lords

 

*Baroness Pitkeathley

to ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they intend to make addressing the financial hardship of carers a priority in the forthcoming update of the Carers Strategy.

Available to watch here live from 11am.

As yet we do not know what time Baroness Pitkeathley will speak.

 

 

 

Withdrawal of nighttime care breached disabled woman’s human rights

2 July 2014

as reported on doughty street chambers

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has decided today (20 May 2014) that the withdrawal of nighttime care from Mrs McDonald by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea breached her human rights for a period of almost a year before proper care planning processes were completed. Steve Cragg QC and Steve Broach acted for Mrs McDonald in the domestic proceedings and the ECtHR, instructed by Disability Law Service.

The judgment in McDonald v UK is the first time that a breach of Article 8 ECHR, the right to respect for private and family life, has been identified by the ECtHR in a case concerning the provision of services or support to a disabled person. The ECtHR held that the withdrawal of nighttime care was an interference with Mrs McDonald’s right to respect for private life, and that for the relevant period this interference was ‘not in accordance with the law’ because of the admitted failures of the care planning in her case. Although the Court of Appeal found that care planning had not been carried out properly in that period, a finding upheld by the Supreme Court, none of the domestic courts considered this to be a breach of Article 8 ECHR.

An important aspect of the judgment is the focus on Mrs McDonald’s human dignity, and in particular the extension of the principles established in Pretty v UK, a case on assisted dying, to the arena of the provision of welfare support.

A further key finding by the ECtHR was that the withdrawal of nighttime care constituted a negative interference with Mrs McDonald’s Article 8 ECHR rights, which meant she did not need to establish any positive obligation to provide the support she was seeking. This is likely to be very helpful to future challenges to cuts to disabled people’s care packages, not least because any such cut which is implemented without a proper reassessment or care plan review is highly likely to involve a breach of Article 8.

Mrs McDonald has been awarded damages of 1,000 Euros by way of just satisfaction.

Ian Wise QC represented Age UK in its intervention in the case in the Supreme Court.

Steve Cragg QC is available for media comment on the judgment. The press release from the ECtHR can be downloaded here .

Further information is available from the Council of Europe here; and The Independent Living Debate here

Read the rest of this entry »

The truth about Employment Support Allowance

25 June 2014

 

Congratulations to Dame Anne Begg who has finally spoken the truth about the Employment Support Allowance  “work related activity” group (WRAG).

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Dame Anne Begg, chair of the work and pensions select committee,  said last Friday that large groups of people appear to have been “parked” on the benefit in the “work-related activity” group, which covers all those found neither to be fully fit for work nor so disabled that they cannot be expected to look for employment.

Disability activists across the country will be as delighted as Pat’s Petition and CarerWatch that politicians are finally admitting to the false premise on which Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) was based.

ESA is a failed experiment conducted live on sick and disabled people.

Sick and disabled people who are assigned to the WRAG are found not fully fit for work. Almost none of them are finding work. Yet the government is sanctioning and stopping their benefits; telling them they are ‘expected’ to find work. This is cruel, it defies logic and is causing tremendous anxiety for claimants. They are being threatened and required to do things that they are not able to do because of their physical or mental condition.

ESA was designed using flawed premises and has failed. It needs to be completely rethought.

Meanwhile Pat’s Petition and CarerWatch call upon this government and the next to take responsibility for this disastrous mistake. We call upon them to introduce the following immediate reforms to prevent disabled people having to live this nightmare existence while the politicians responsible sort it out.

. Reduce the level of sanctions
 
· Take off the time limits
 
. Raise the income levels for means testing

· Stop the WCA re-testing for long term and progressive conditions.
 
·Take the Bedroom tax off disabled people

. Expand the Supported Permitted Work scheme

These changes will make the WRAG safer and reduce the costly appeals against WRAG allocation.

Making these simple changes will make the WRAG safer and give disabled people some space to feel safe away from anxiety, while everyone works together to look for the long term answers.

 

News articles below -

Work Programme ‘failing those most in need and should be broken up’

DWP denies risk of rising disability benefits breaching welfare spending cap

Hospital staff should recognise carers’ skills and knowledge

23 June 2014

Carers have knowledge and expertise not provided by NHS staff, yet they are not consulted in the hospital process

experts

You might think that when the person they care for goes into hospital, carers would receive a period of respite. I don’t find it so. My responsibilities continue during my partner’s spells of hospitalisation, because while the resources of a major teaching hospital are focused on the problem that led to Victoria’s admission (currently, an infected pressure sore), the longer term needs created by her multiple sclerosis don’t go away. But they do tend to get disregarded by hospital staff.

read in full here

 

 

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