For those of us who don’t care for a family member with health needs, it is difficult to imagine the everyday challenges that unpaid carers face.
Every day another 6,000 people take on a caring responsibility – that equals over two million people each year.
What unpaid care looks like is specific to every individual – there is no set role an unpaid carer plays. From daily personal care, managing medication, supporting their mental health, cleaning or going out to get the shopping, these carers are an essential part of our social fabric. What is consistent across every unpaid carer is the invaluable role they play, not only in the lives of those they care for, but in supporting the wider social care sector.
As Minister for Care I recognise the vital contribution unpaid carers make, and I want to take the opportunity this Carers Week to pay tribute to those across the country and thank them for the work they do.
This week I was fortunate to visit Carers Hub Lambeth to meet some brilliant carers who are dedicated to providing the best possible life for those they care for. They spoke about the challenges they face – of not being able to have respite, having to give up careers to take on caring full time and fighting for the vital individual support for those they care for. Many have sacrificed so much to care for someone they love.
I know unpaid carers can often feel isolated, unsupported and unrecognised for the role they play, and this has to change. That’s why our plans for social care reform include up to a £25 million investment to kickstart a change in the services provided to support them.
We want to work with unpaid carers to use this money to test out better ways to provide support, from easier access to respite which can give carers a rare opportunity to step away from their day to day and focus on themselves, to peer groups and wellbeing support.
We are also working to produce a social prescribing summary document to be used to intervene when carers feel lonely or need more support and investing at least £2.3 billion of additional funding a year by 2023-24 to expand and transform mental health services in England so that two million more people will be able to access mental health support, including carers.
And with the cost of living increasing, I know this is adding additional worries. Nearly 60% of working age people on Carer’s Allowance will get a Cost of Living Payment – £650 for people on means-tested benefits and other targeted payments for families living with a pensioner or a disabled person. On top of this all households will receive £400 through the Energy Bill Support Scheme and we have extended the Household Support Fund by £500 million. Families can also receive an additional £2,000 a year through the carer’s element in Universal Credit and may be entitled to further support through the benefits system.
It is my mission that unpaid carers across the country know that this government not only recognises the invaluable role they play, but is committed to ensuring they have access to the support they need to enable them not just to continue to provide care for those close to them, but to feel cared for themselves.