Liberal Democrats will give 950 carers in East Dunbartonshire a £250 ‘Carer’s Bonus’ for looking after loved ones who are older, disabled or seriously ill. The annual payment would be a boost to an army of unsung heroes who work tirelessly to care for their friends and relatives.
This policy is part of a £150m package to help make the lives of Britain’s 6.5 million carers that bit easier. It forms part of the Liberal Democrat Disability Manifesto published today.
The measures include:
- A new Carer’s Passport to allow unpaid carers certain privileges, that could include free hospital parking, free cinema tickets and free gym sessions.
- Increasing ‘care leave’ by five days and extending the ‘earning limit’ to allow carers to work more without losing their Carer’s Allowance.
- Create a cross-government Carers’ Champion to ensure carers get a voice at the heart of government.
Commenting Jo said:
“Carers are the unsung heroes in our community, quietly going about helping their loved ones without seeking favour or thanks for their kindness.
“There are currently 950 adults in East Dunbartonshire who are supporting a family member who is older, disabled or seriously ill.
“More needs to be done to help them get the support they deserve – which is why I’m so proud to support our Disability Manifesto. The £250 bonus can make a real difference to carers’ lives.
“Tory cuts will make it harder for carers to get support and Labour’s refusal to make any promises on desperately needed NHS funding means that only a vote for the Lib Dems will help make carers’ lives that much easier."
The Liberal Democrat package for carers includes:
1. An NHS-wide ‘Carer’s Passport’ which would help staff identify carers, recognise them as part of the team supporting patients, and entitle them to help, such as free hospital parking, the use of a ‘carers kitchen’ to make a cup of tea, or extended visiting hours. Major health and entertainment chains would be encouraged to offer them discounts such as cinema tickets, free restaurant meals, and gym sessions.
2. A £250 ‘Carer’s Bonus’ for full time carers, which they could spend on whatever they like. This will be gradually introduced, brought in 2017/18 at £125 per carer.
3. Carers would be allowed to do more work without losing their Carer’s Allowance, as we will work to extend the ‘earnings limit’ from £110 per week to £150 per week, giving £50m back to carers by the end of the next parliament.
4. A consultation on introducing five days’ paid additional ‘care leave’ a year for carers who qualify for the Carer’s Allowance.
5. Invest £8bn per year extra into the NHS by 2020, the amount NHS bosses say is needed.
6. Take action to get better trained and paid care staff, ending 15 minute visits.
7. We would fund the initial £125 carer’s bonus from a levy on tobacco companies.
According to Carers UK, across the UK today 6.5 million people, 1 in 8 adults, are carers supporting a family member who is older, disabled or seriously ill. Within our lifetime there may be 9 million carers and around 6 out of 10 of us will become carers at some point in our lives [source].
In caring for their families they make a huge contribution. Carers UK estimates that the care provided by friends and family members to ill, frail or disabled relatives is now worth a £119 billion every year [source].
To support carers we would work with NHS England to develop an NHS ‘Carer’s Passport’ scheme to inform carers of their rights in the NHS, assert their role as ‘expert partners in care’ and gain access to support like free hospital parking. A few NHS Trusts have started to develop these schemes already.
For example, Carers in Hertfordshire benefit from a range of discounts from theatres, cinemas, cafes and shops because they can show a ‘passport’ [source]. Ipswich hospital runs a Family Carers passport, which includes parking permits, extra visiting hours and access to a ‘Carer Cabin’; it also signposts carers to extra help available, such as carers’ assessments [source].
The Liberal Democrats have helped carers in this government. All carers are entitled to an assessment of their care needs by the local authority which is the key to accessing local authority carer’s breaks, something we campaigned on at the last election. Thanks to a Liberal Democrat commitment to carers at the last election, the Department of Health provided an extra £400m for the NHS between 2011 and 2015 to enable carers to take breaks.
The Disability Manifesto also includes measures for disabled people in Britain including:
· Simplifying benefits for disabled people bringing Personal Independence Payments (PIP) and Employment Support Allowances (ESA) into one easily accessible fund
· Ensure tenants who need an extra bedroom for genuine medical reasons are entitled to one in any assessment of their Housing Benefit needs
· Encourage employers to shortlist any qualified disabled candidate and provide advice about workplace adaptation
· Formally recognise British Sign Language as an official language of the United Kingdom
· Tackle disability hate crime by ensuring proper monitoring of incidents by police forces and other public authorities
You can download the full Disability Manifesto here.