The Government has announced its intention to refresh the National Carers Strategy and put together an action plan for the next five years.
Paul Burstow MP, Minister for Care Services, has said that the vision from the last Strategy in 2008 will remain, but that a new action plan will outline the "key activities upon which the Government can focus" to "ensure maximum value for money in the context of the current economic climate."
The last Government launched the National Carers Strategy in 2008, which set out a ten year vision that, by 2018, carers would be: respected as expert care partners; able to have a life of their own alongside caring; supported so they are not forced into financial hardship by their caring role; and supported to stay mentally and physically well.
The Employers for Carers Leadership Group has responded to the Government's consultation, focussing on support for carers to remain in, and return to, work. The Leadership Group's response makes the following points:
Ø The majority (80%) of carers are of working age and for many such carers the key priority for avoiding financial hardship is access to employment, either the ability to remain in, or return to, work. Working age carers should therefore be a key part of the refreshed Strategy. The Strategy should include:
Measures to promote workplace support through:
(1) raising awareness of statutory rights through better communication and dissemination of these rights to individuals and employers.
(2) providing practical and accessible guidance for employers, including about the business benefits of supporting carers.
(3) using appropriate existing mechanisms to embed good practice in strategic thinking and planning.
Measures to support carers to return to work through:
(1) continuation of reforms to Jobcentre Plus launched in 2008.
(2) working with other employment services to ensure that they are geared up to recognise and support carers.
(3) linking this agenda with reforms to the welfare system to ensure that it does not act as a barrier to carers returning to work.
Measures to ensure that external care and support services are fit for the 21st century and enable people to combine work and caring through:
(1) universally available access to information, advice and advocacy.
(2) a transparent and portable assessment system.
(3) stimulating the care market to ensure a sufficiency of supply of services, including looking at the lessons from the childcare sector and from overseas.