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Carers over 80: Support

Volume 773: debated on Monday 13 June 2016


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what additional social care resources they will provide to support the numbers of carers aged over 80, in the light of estimates that half of those are providing over 35 hours caring per week.

My Lords, we recognise the invaluable contribution carers make to society and that many provide long hours of wonderful care. We support wholeheartedly the implementation of the improved rights for carers established by the Care Act 2014, providing just over £186 million of funding to local authorities for these improved rights. We are committed to continuing to improve support for carers through the publication of a new national carers strategy by the end of 2016.

I thank the Minister for his response. Research by Age UK, Carers UK and independent age charities shows that the older the carer, the more hours of care they tend to provide. That, surely, cannot be right. Many carers over 80 are providing as much as 50 hours of care a week, often without any support because they do not meet the new eligibility criteria and councils just do not have the money in their social care budgets. Will the Minister undertake to ensure that the new carers strategy tackles these high and increasing levels of unmet demand? With councils across the country having to cut back on carer support, what specific support and funding will the Government provide to help councils offer real support to carers?

The noble Baroness is absolutely right. Nearly half a million people over 80 are providing more than 35 hours a week of care to their partner or loved one, which is a huge commitment and often has profound implications for their own health and well-being. We are all singing from the same hymn sheet on this and I am sure that the carers strategy coming out at the end of the year will address the particular requirements of that age group. The Government will continue to support carers’ rights. I mentioned the £186 million being given to local authorities to do that.

My Lords, the Building Carer Friendly Communities research report for Carers Week last week reported that approaching half of older carers had not been offered an annual health check by their GP practices, and about half of older carers said that their GP practice had not told them where they could find help. What are the Government doing to encourage primary care to make sure that older carers get access to annual health checks and support?

My Lords, clearly it is essential that older people have access to at least annual check-ups from their GPs. A large part of the review that is being undertaken will be about how we signpost and inform people of the need to have these health check-ups. I am sure that will be a part of the strategy announced at the end of the year.

Under the new legislation, the Care Act, carers have a right to an assessment of their needs. Will the Minister assure the House not just that those needs will be assessed but that enough resources will be put into the system so that they can be met?

My Lords, under the Care Act there is an assessment, eligibility criteria and a support plan. Clearly there is no point having a plan without the support.

My Lords, will the Government consider setting up an independent review to look at the sorts of budgets that local authorities will require to provide a decent service?

As part of the consultation that is being conducted in preparation for the publication of the strategy at the end of the year, the Government have called for evidence, looking at international comparisons as well as an economic review, which I am sure will take into account the issues the noble Lord raises.

My Lords, in recognising the serious concerns about people over 80, and people under 80 with health needs themselves, will the Minister assure us that the review will have regard to the number of children who are carers for adult members of the family? The needs of the parent are assessed, quite rightly, but the needs of the child or children concerned are not always taken into account. Can we have an assurance that the new strategy will cover both my noble friend’s Question and concerns, and the needs of children?

The noble Baroness is absolutely right. There are many tens of thousands of children who have very substantial caring responsibilities for their parents or grandparents. The impact on their education and future careers is certainly something that the strategy will want to take into account. Of course, the Children and Families Act sets out the rights of children. We need to assess them very carefully in the forthcoming strategy.

My Lords, can the Minister tell us how much the group of people who are carers over 80 is saving the economy by offering their services?

I cannot give a specific figure for those over 80 but I think that, in so far as you can monetise something like this, the total amount for all unpaid carers is estimated to be around £1.3 billion a year.

My Lords, I am so sorry to get up but we have not yet heard from the Conservative Benches. Although I recognise that there has been a series of Labour Peers it is the turn of the noble Lord, Lord Flight.

Thank you. My Lords, does the Minister recognise that there are large numbers of older people who simply look after each other? This is at the heart of the institution of marriage and they may not be registered as a carer because they are of similar age and shape. This whole issue is about not just the carer situation but older people who happily look after each other in old age.

Yes, we are talking about not just people who are registered carers but in particular where older people are looking after each other reciprocally, whether that is within marriage or a long-term partnership. Again, you cannot monetise something like that. It is part of a loving relationship. One of the tragedies in this is that it can sometimes change that caring relationship of husband and wife to one of a carer and a cared-for person, which can have a quite difficult psychological impact on individuals.

My Lords, do the Government have any plans to provide respite care for carers, particularly where there are significant disabilities involved with the person being cared for?

Respite care is hugely important. I think that the better care fund provides about £130 million a year for respite care. Giving people time out is hugely important.