Primary care trusts will be held to account for their spending on carers following revelations that dedicated resources for short breaks were not being spent as desired, care services minister Phil Hope has pledged.
The Department of Health has asked strategic health authorities to quiz PCTs on the level of priority they are giving to carers and what outcomes they are trying to achieve for the group, both for this financial year and 2010-11.
The DH will then examine the plans to see if they are adequate, and if not, PCTs will be asked to revise them, though this would only affect spending for 2010-11.
The 2008 carers strategy allocated £150m to PCTs in their general budgets to fund short breaks from 2009-11.
However, a freedom of information request made by the Princess Royal Trust for Carers and Crossroads Caring for Carers, whose results were published last October, found that about £40m of the £50m allocated for 2009-10 was not spent on carers.
Speaking at a Princess Royal Trust for Carers cross-party debate on carers yesterday, Hope said: “If we are giving money to PCTs to spend on respite care they should be held to account for what they are doing.”
Responding to the announcement, the trust said the government had “conceded to pressure from carers”. However, the charity’s chief executive, Carole Cochrane, said: “Although this gesture is a step in the right direction, this is only a commitment to honour an existing pledge.”
Speaking on the same platform, shadow health minister Stephen O’Brien raised concerns about the fact that pensioners and carers earning more than £95 a week are ineligible for the carer’s allowance. However, he did not say whether a future Tory government would reform the benefit.