Respite care: Experts slam Liberal Democrats’ proposal

Social care experts have criticised today’s proposal by the Liberal Democrats to provide additional respite care for carers.

The party said it would use £420m of health funding to give one week’s holiday to all carers working 50 hours a week or more.

But Martin Green, chief executive of the English Community Care Association, described the policy as “throwing carers scraps”.

“Carers should be entitled to at least the minimum holiday that paid employees are,” Green said, adding that one week’s holiday while working 50 hours a week would be unacceptable for paid care workers.

Colin Angel, head of policy at the United Kingdom Homecare Association, said the policy would not reach enough people. “Those who do not have any informal care or have unmet needs because of means-testing will not be helped,” he said.

Counsel and Care chief executive Stephen Burke said: “What we still need is much wider fundamental reform.”

Jenny Owen, president of the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, said: “This is going back to having a discussion at the margins.”

Both Burke and Owen said they felt a meeting of politicians and stakeholders last week to discuss the future funding of social care, which included the Lib Dems, revealed a growing consensus.

However, The Princess Royal Trust for Carers was less critical of the policy. Chief executive Caroline Cochrane said: “We believe that a substantial investment in breaks for carers would be a good start in establishing a new deal between government and families over care.” She said the UK lagged behind other countries. Germany, for example, offers carers four weeks of breaks.

Carers UK said it would like to see this work alongside the Personal Care at Home Bill’s right to free personal care for the most in need. Chief executive Imelda Redmond welcomed the Lib Dems’ proposals. “We must not divert from this vital task to reach a political consensus over care,” she said.

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