Carers and General Election 2015

15 September 2014

question markAre you an unpaid family carer? 

Are you worried about cuts to benefits and social care?  Have you been affected by lack of respite? …… and so the list goes on.

We are compiling a list of questions to be sent to Ministers from ALL main political parties. Any responses will be posted on this blog.

Please add your question in the comments below or send email to Rosemary at admin@carerwatch.com

Please share with your networks

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What others are saying  –

 

from Richard Hawkes  Chair of Care and Support Alliance

In the last few months we’ve heard again from local authorities about the chronic underfunding in the social care system.  Figures from ADASS show that there has been a 26% reduction in social care budgets over the last four years.

As a result, we are seeing a rapidly rising number of older and disabled people who struggle to get the support they need to simply get up, get dressed and get out of the house.

This is placing unbearable pressure on family carers, who are simply unable to fill the gap left by care cuts. The number of people providing full-time care to loved ones is now over 1.4 million, many of who are being pushed to breaking point.

The new Care Act is bold and ambitious.  But delivering on it is dependent on putting the social care system on a sustainable financial footing.We need all political parties to be bold and commit to investing in social care, so that older people, disabled people and the families who care for them get the support they need to live well.

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 from Moira Fraser, Director of Policy and Research, Carers Trust

The General Election in 2015 is a crucial opportunity for carers’ voices to be heard. So many issues have impacted on carers in the last four year – changes to the NHS, in welfare benefits and cuts to the services available locally.

Carers votes count. Carers should be able to access adequate support to ensure they and the people they care for are well supported, healthy, and have a  life of their own.

All political parties should make it a priority to recognise the needs of carers. Making sure the rights won under the Care Act in England are properly implemented, including providing the funding to do this, would be a good place to start.

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from Heléna Herklots, Chief Executive of Carers UK

Just as more and more families take on caring responsibilities, carers are facing a combination of cuts to social care and benefits. As we approach a general election, all political parties must pledge to stop cutting carers support and urgently put in place measures to prevent carers’ financial hardship and ensure social care services can meet growing demand.

Without this we will see growing numbers of families pushed to breaking point, forced to give up their jobs to care and at risk of debt, isolation and exhaustion.

 

 

 

 

Carers pushed to breaking point

11 September 2014

Press release from CarersUK

11 September 2014

Carers across the UK are being pushed to the brink – suffering exhaustion, physical and mental breakdown as they struggle to care for older or disabled loved ones.

Carers UK’s Carers at breaking point research – based on a survey of over 5,000 carers1 – shows:

  • 6 in 10 caring for an older, disabled or seriously ill loved one have reached breaking point.
  • A quarter needing medical treatment as a result.
  • 63% suffered depression and 79% reported anxiety.

see in full here

 

Employment Support allowance ‘easier to claim’ – joke

10 September 2014

CarerWatch and Pat’s Petition welcome the discussion on 5th September 2014 comparing the ease of access to ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) with access to the old IB (Incapacity Benefit).

ESA logo

However it is important to compare like with like. The new ESA is not equivalent to the old IB and they should not be compared directly. We would suggest that the new ESA Support Group alone should be considered as equivalent to the award of long term IB. If you compare these figures you will find that it is much harder to get in to the Support Group than it was to claim IB.

The ESA WRAG (Work Related Activity Group) is a temporary, time limited benefit, suitable for people with short term injuries or illnesses, who will get better and return to work within a year. It only lasts twelve months. It is the equivalent of the old short term IB.

We would also note other distortions to the figures including the time taken to process the initial application. If there is a short time to process, then all the short term injuries need to be counted, whereas with a longer processing period, these short term disabilities are gone before they are included.

We have pressed for a cumulative impact assessment of these changes and slowly we are seeing acknowledgement that this must be done . We cannot wait much longer.

We have always said that changes should not be brought in until the full effects are understood: they wouldn’t do this in any new transport system or construction plan so why are they allowed to experiment in this way on disabled people? .

There are many other issues involved in the comparisons – this needs serious analysis from professional and independent statisticians such as those at Sheffield Hallam University. This would all be part of a thorough cumulative impact assessment and we urge the government to ensure this is completed as a matter of urgency.

Frances Kelly

Pat Onions

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Independent Living fund Drop in tomorrow – House of Commons

1 September 2014
Independent Living fund Drop in
 
– with BBC Silent Witness actress Liz Carr
 
2 September 2014; 2 – 4pm; House of Commons Committee Room 19
 

pic from BBC

This drop in session will be a chance for MPs to find out more about the closure of the ILF which currently supports nearly 18,000 disabled people with the highest support needs to live independently in the community, to contribute to society in employment, education, volunteering, as family members, friends and as members of our communities and to build the local economy through employing teams of Personal Assistants.

The surgery will be an opportunity to ask questions and to speak to Liz who has been enabled, through support from the ILF, to progress an acting career that has spanned stand-up comedy, presenting for BBC and primetime television.

Also in attendance to answer your questions will be an ILF staff representative and a disabled person who missed out on the ILF through its closure to new applicants in 2010 and whose experiences reflect those of many other disabled people now excluded from participating in areas of life that non-disabled people take for granted.

The Drop in is being organized by PCS Union, Disabled People Against Cuts and Inclusion London.

For more information contact ellen.clifford@inclusionlondon.co.uk or Natasha@pcs.org.uk

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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.

 

 

 

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.
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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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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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