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Today (Thursday 18 April, 2024) charity Carers UK has launched its manifesto setting out how the next Government could dramatically improve the lives of 5.7 million unpaid carers in the UK.

Ahead of the next Westminster General Election, the charity is calling for all political parties to commit to a new social contract for carers – to reduce the penalties carers face due to the care they provide such as being plunged into poverty, giving up paid employment, and experiencing poor and broken physical and mental health.   

In particular, Carers UK is highlighting the fact that there has not been a long-term cross-Government approach to supporting carers since the last National Carers Strategy was published back in 2008. A two-year Carers Action Plan was in place between 2018 and 2020.

With a significant rise in the number of hours of unpaid care being provided, a radical transformation in the way carers receive support over the next decade is needed for carers whose support is now worth a staggering £162 billion a year – without which our health and care systems would simply collapse.

Unpaid carers have been grappling with the rises in the cost of living, chronic shortages in social care and breaks, a lack of support from the NHS, challenges juggling work and care and delays in identifying as a carer meaning they often did not get support at the right time.

Based on the views and engagement with over 11,000 unpaid carers across the UK, Carers UK’s manifesto has recommendations across key domains; supporting carer’s health and wellbeing; preventing financial hardship; better identification and recognition; improving care and support; support to juggle work and care and equality for carers.

Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK said,

“It’s time that the next Government redefined its relationship with unpaid carers and delivered a social contract that they can rely on.  They do so much saving the state billions and yet feel they get very little in return in terms of recognition and support.

“The fact that Carer’s Allowance is worth only £81.90 per week for a minimum of 35 hours care and is the lowest benefit of its kind speaks volumes. It’s unacceptable that carers are reaching breaking point and don’t receive the support they desperately need. The next Government must do more to help families so that 600 people a day don’t have to give up work to care.

“We want political parties to set out their social contract with unpaid carers and commit to a funded, cross-government 10-year National Carers Strategy.  We know that if unpaid carers were better supported it would benefit their lives - removing unnecessary pressure on their relationships, preventing poverty, improving their health and ensuring those who can, and want to, remain in work.  We see investing in unpaid carers and care as a win:win, for families, society and the economy.”

Recommendations include:

  • Making the NHS the most carer-friendly in the world and by building in new responsibilities to recognise unpaid carers’ health and promote their wellbeing.
  • Positive reform and modernisation of Carer’s Allowance and main carers’ benefits to recognise caring better, allow carers to work more, not be trapped by overpayments and risk financial hardship.
  • Investment in social care to improve carers’ health and wellbeing, giving them a right to a vital break but also giving them the space to juggle work and care.
  • Increasing carers’ recognition and support by making caring a protected characteristic.
  • Building on the new right to unpaid Carer’s Leave in the workplace by making it a paid entitlement and extending it to two weeks of leave.

Read the full manifesto here.

Source: Carers UK

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