Ivan Lewis: Carers helpline will only be introduced in England

Care services minister Ivan Lewis has said a flagship 24-hour telephone helpline for carers will be introduced only in England when it is launched next year.

The £2.7m helpline, which is part of the government’s carers strategy, will not be extended to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland because of a lack of information about entitlements in the devolved administrations.

Lewis told MPs last week that people would “not be turned away” because of their nationality, but if they were asking detailed questions about services in Scotland, Northern Ireland or Wales then “at the moment the helpline will not have the capacity to give the information they need”.

Close contact with devolved administrations

In evidence to the work and pensions select committee, as part of its inquiry into the carers strategy, Lewis said that the government was in “close contact” with the Scottish and Welsh assembly governments.

Anne McGuire, minister for disabled people, added that it was in everyone’s interests that carers in Scotland, Wales, and England – Northern Ireland had a different system – should be given full information on their entitlements but most of the social care services “are in the hands of the administrations”.

Terry Rooney MP, chair of the committee, urged ministers to speed up discussions. He said: “We are going to have this helpline just for England, or perhaps England and Wales, because of devolved health issues.”

The committee also challenged the ministers on whether they would raise carer’s allowance, following concerns over the government’s failure to raise the level of £50.55 a week in the carers strategy. McGuire said that a promised review of carers’ benefits would look at how the allowance “fitted” with other working age benefits.

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