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Support for Carers

Volume 571: debated on Tuesday 26 November 2013

1. What steps he is taking to improve signposting to support and information for carers by health bodies and local authorities. (901258)

The Care Bill will require local authorities to ensure that information and advice is available to their local populations, including carers, and to co-operate with health bodies in fulfilling this function. The Bill will extend carers’ rights to an assessment of their needs so that carers receive appropriate support and signposting to local services.

I welcome those measures in the Care Bill to support carers, but for them to benefit from that support, they first need to be identified. It is estimated that only one in 20 carers of people with cancer, for example, receives a carer’s assessment. How does the Minister propose to get local authorities to work with the NHS and other health bodies to identify carers and ensure that their needs do not go unnoticed?

The Care Bill will introduce a right to an assessment for all carers, which I think is an incredibly important advance for them. We are also giving money—£1.5 million—to the Royal College of General Practitioners and other bodies, including nursing bodies, to raise awareness of the vital role of carers in working with GPs to improve the care of those who need it.

I think the Minister is missing the point, though, in that carers of people with cancer do not have contact with local authorities. Macmillan Cancer Support found that half of those carers are not getting any support at all and do not know where to go for it. They do have contact, however, with GPs and hospital doctors, so what is the Minister going to do to make sure that GPs and hospital doctors identify carers and make sure that they get that support and advice?

First, I pay tribute to the work of Macmillan. It does brilliant work, and this is a really important campaign because it will raise awareness. I do not think I am missing the point, because raising awareness among front-line professionals is critical, and local authorities will also have a duty through the Care Bill to co-operate with the health service and, of course, to integrate or join up care, all of which is in the interests of carers.

Carers—and, I hope, the Minister—local authorities and GPs will be distressed by this week’s report of care companies being investigated by Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, almost half of which were found not to be paying the minimum wage. How does tackling that problem at the heart of our care system fit into the Minister’s plans to help support carers?

I completely share the hon. Lady’s concern about care companies that do not pay the minimum wage. All care companies should meet their obligations in law to pay the minimum wage. HMRC has done a lot of work, focusing on the care sector, and I have been absolutely clear that there is an obligation for those care companies to meet their requirements under the national minimum wage legislation. We cannot get good care on the back of exploiting low-paid workers.