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Volume 478: debated on Monday 23 June 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what assessment he has made of the health impact on carers of balancing work with care responsibilities; if he will assess the merits of the introduction of a care voucher scheme, similar to that in operation for child care; and if he will make a statement. (162409)

In April 2003, the Government introduced a new right for parents of children up to six and disabled children up to 18, to request flexible working and put a duty on the employer to consider their request seriously. The Work and Families Act 2006 extended this right to carers of adults from April 2007. Most carers will be given the right to request to vary their contract of employment to enable them more flexibility to carry out their out of work responsibilities.

Last week, we published the new cross-government carers’ strategy. This included significant new measures to enable carers to be better able to combine paid employment with their caring role through enhanced flexible working opportunities and increased skills training opportunities. The strategy announced some £38 million of new investment to help deliver these commitments.

We will be working with employers to develop and disseminate a good practice guide for supporting carers in the workplace—a guide that will not only considerably help individual carers themselves, but which will also point up the strong economic argument for enabling employers to retain the valuable skills that their employees have developed over time.