Carers caring more but do the government?

An interesting juxtaposition of carers news over the past couple of days; firstly, the percentage of carers providing 50 hours or more care a week has more than doubled in the past 9 years; meanwhile, the government has axed the Caring with Confidence programme, a support package for carers worth £4.4 million a year.

New statistics from the NHS Information Centre reveal that 5 million adults in England – nearly 1 in 8 – act as a carer for a sick, elderly or disabled person, with more than a fifth providing care for more than 50 hours a week.

Today, 22% provide care for 50 hours or more, compared to 10% in 2000-01. Also, nearly half of carers (48%) provide 20 hours or more of care a week and 30% provide 35 hours or more.

These figures are based on 2 surveys of more than 37,000 carers; the Survey of Carers in households – 2009/10 England – Provisional Results, and Personal Social Services Survey of Adult Carers in England, 2009/10, so it’s fairly in-depth.

So with this in mind, it seems odd that the government has chosen to close the contract for the Caring with Confidence programme – a scheme designed to improve support for carers – in September, rather than March 2011, as was originally planned.

Care services minister Paul Burstow’s justification for cutting Caring for Confidence is that the money used in the scheme could be “spent smarter” elsewhere. He didn’t elaborate on how, other than to say that he plans to offer more support to carers’ organisations and for carers’ training.

However, given that supporting carers and giving them training is – was – Caring with Confidence’s raison d’etre, the decision makes even less sense, especially as it was coming to the end of its government funding early next year and, anecdotally, was making a positive difference to carers’ lives.

It seems like the government is trying to make quick savings to cut the financial deficit with this decision, and it flies in the face of its manifesto commitment to support carers.

Hopefully Burstow makes good on his words and this is not a sign of things to come for carers, otherwise the Personal Social Services Survey of Adult Carers survey’s statistic that 17% found their quality of life was either “bad, very bad or so bad it could not be worse”, could increase in years to come.

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