My honourable friend the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Ivan Lewis) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
We have today launched the New Deal for Carers first signalled in the White Paper Our Health, Our Care, Our Say.
The New Deal for Carers comprises four key elements. First, there will be a thorough review of the 1999 national strategy “Caring for Carers”. This pan-government review will provide the opportunity to set a new vision for the future, building on the foundations of the successes of the past 10 years which have included the right for carers to request flexible working, and the introduction of the carers grant. To support this, we have today announced the most far-reaching national consultation ever on the future of carers and in the coming months will invite carers' groups and the voluntary sector to help us design a modern vision for caring.
Underpinning the development of the new strategic vision will be a series of practical measures, based on what carers themselves have said will be the next steps forward in meeting their support needs.
The Government will be launching an expert carers programme. This programme will equip carers with advocacy skills and provide practical training such as first aid, and moving and handling. The Government are working closely with the leading organisations representing carers to ensure that the content of the expert carers programme reflect carers' own needs.
The Government will also be launching a helpline for carers. The 1999 strategy emphasised the importance of good information for carers and the helpline will now provide a single telephone number to provide comprehensive information, ranging from national rights and entitlements through to what is available in an individual's own locality.
Finally, the Government are making an additional £25 million available to local authorities in England to enhance the provision of short-term, home-based respite care. There is considerable evidence that the lack of proper planned alternative care provision in the event of something untoward happening is one of the most important factors in limiting a carer's freedom to have a life of their own. The Government are working with stakeholders to develop guidelines to local authorities on the provision of such emergency respite care. This guidance will be published this summer and £25 million will be made available to English local authorities from October 2007.