New deal for carers and strategy consultation kicked off by Gordon Brown

A wide-ranging consultation on updating the 1999 carers strategy was launched today by chancellor Gordon Brown, alongside details of a £32 million “new deal for carers”.

The deal, which was originally announced in the health and social care white paper, will include £25 million a year for emergency respite care from 2007-8 and a national telephone helpline and website. The government will also spend £5 million on an expert patient programme, to be developed in conjunction with the voluntary sector

Care services minister Ivan Lewis told Community Care that updating the 1999 strategy would be a cross-government process and the consultation would involve carers and carers’ organisations across England.

He said the consultation would cover topics such as employment rights and flexible working, the attitude of the NHS towards carers and the role of social care services.

The 1999 strategy introduced a respite grant for carers, insisted they be involved in service planning and said carers had a right to have their own health needs met.

Lewis said there was “no question” of the carers grant not being retained but said a key question was how to make sure all the money made its way to carers.

“In many local authorities we have examples of excellent work. In others there’s some evidence that the money isn’t getting to carers directly. The strategy must ensure that all carers grant and additional money goes directly to the front line. That’s part of the challenge in a world where everyone accepts that the days of ring fencing are more or less over.”

He suggested GPs must take a greater responsibility for identifying carers and helping them access services.

Lewis said Gordon Brown had a personal commitment to carers and added: “Many families want to retain responsibility for the care of their loved ones but they do expect the government to be on their side offering practical support or assistance.”

“We respect and value carers, they do an amazing job. They are the hidden heroes in many of our communities.”

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