asked Her Majesty's Government:
What study they have made of the findings and recommendations of Carers UK's report Caring for Sick or Disabled Children: Parents' Experiences of Combining Work and Care; and what action they are considering arising from the report.[HL2634]
The report is wide ranging. In so far as parents' experiences of combining work and care is concerned, the Government have an excellent track record in providing choice and flexibility to help parents balance their work and family responsibilities. We introduced the right to request flexible working for parents of young and disabled children in 2003. We have been monitoring the impact of this legislation and have recently extended it to carers of adults. The law has been a considerable success: almost 25 per cent of employees with dependent children under the age of six have requested flexible working in the past two years and four out of five requests are accepted.
The report also highlights several issues under the term “the benefits trap”. We are aware of these concerns and there is pre-existing work in development as well as existing policy measures in places. For example, we are developing an information provision strategy to improve information provision for carers across all DWP services and channels, including DWP customer-facing staff at agencies (Jobcentre Plus, Disability and Carers Service and Pensions Service), leaflets, relevant marketing campaigns and helplines. This will aim to co-ordinate messages and information for carers about benefits, work options, training and pension planning.
Figures are not available. The White Paper does not set any numerical targets for the National Health Service or social care. Primary care trusts will however need to demonstrate in the 2008 planning round that they have a clear strategy for the development of primary and community services, including ambitious goals for the shift of resources rooted in the White Paper vision. In the mean time, we are developing metrics that can be used to measure the shift of care closer to home, which includes the need to promote preventative interventions and health and well-being, with stronger local services and support to reduce the prevalence of physical and mental illness.
asked Her Majesty's Government:
How they reconcile their aspirations relating to choice, early intervention, prevention and local services as set out in the White Paper, Our Health, our Care, our Say, with the current local authority social care budgets and the need for local authorities to set higher eligibility thresholds in regard to social care. [HL2917]
We are committed to the delivery of the vision and goals of the Our Health, our Care, our Say White Paper. We continue to make substantial investment to support local authorities in placing more emphasis on prevention, early intervention and bringing about the transformation of services to give service users more choice and control. This is backed up by the recent commissioning framework for health and well-being which provides primary care trusts and local authorities with a framework to work together to improve the health, well-being and independence of their populations.
We are investing £60 million over the years 2006-08 in the partnerships for older people projects, to enable councils to develop innovative ways to help older people avoid emergency hospital admissions and to live independently in their own communities. The projects are testing and evaluating innovative ways of enabling health and social care communities to create a sustainable shift in their whole system towards prevention. We are also piloting individual budgets, designed to increase choice and control, and to support people in decisions about their own lives. Learning from these projects and others will help local authorities, working together with their partners in the National Health Service, to make locally appropriate decisions about the most effective use of their resources.
The department has provided guidance to councils with social services responsibilities, but local authorities set eligibility criteria for who qualifies for local authority funded social care.