Carers Week is an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges unpaid carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK. It also helps people who don’t think of themselves as having caring responsibilities to identify as carers and access much-needed support.
This is an issue that is very close to my heart; I cannot overestimate how much carers have been at the heart of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. They do so much to make our health and social care services one to be proud of and I believe they deserve our upmost respect, admiration and full support.
Last week, I attended the Carers Week event in Parliament where I met Kim, a constituent of Hornsey and Wood Green. Kim is an unpaid carer who travels to Milton Keynes every weekend to look after her father who is suffering from dementia. Kim’s story is one of many – heartbreak, resilience and love for her family. However, her mental health has been suffering. As well as the lack of healthcare support for sick people, unpaid carers do not have easy access to mental health support.
I think the lack of investment in health care prevention is causing an unnecessary cost to the NHS. I have been contacted by so many constituents who are ending up in A&E or having to go to the GP repeatedly due to mental health. These constituents are waiting months and years to receive mental health help, and in the meantime their condition worsens. This has most certainly been made worse due to the pandemic.
I believe that this Tory Government is so short-minded. It doesn’t think about long-term impacts or the consequences of its policies. By failing to invest in the NHS, they are costing the NHS more. And in Kim’s case, by cutting the money that goes into adult social care, they are forcing family members to become unpaid carers and this can cause mental and physical health problems.
Following my meeting with Kim, I wrote to the Health Secretary calling for urgent action and clarification on the Government’s long-awaited Recovery and Respite Plan for Unpaid Carers. Please see below my letter:
Dear Mr Javid,
During Prime Minister’s Questions today, the Prime Minister recognised the incredible work that unpaid carers do and thanked them for all they do for their loved ones.
Unfortunately the Prime Minister’s words are meaningless without action.
This afternoon, I attended the Carers Week event in Parliament where I spoke to one of my constituents, Kim. Kim is an unpaid carer who, although she lives in my constituency of Hornsey and Wood Green, travels to Milton Keynes every weekend to look after her father who is suffering from dementia. By looking after her father during the weekends, Kim is giving her mother, also an unpaid carer, some much-deserved time off.
I was very disheartened to hear about Kim’s story and just how difficult and isolating it is to be an unpaid carer for your loved one. She had to turn down well-paid work due to weekly travel and other commitments to her father. As well as financial consequences, Kim told me she is mentally and physically drained. Having to see your father suffer from dementia is so terribly sad. Thanks to the incredible work of charities, she is able to receive some support. But help for unpaid carers is extremely difficult to get, with many suffering in silence. My constituent also told me that she would like to see more respite and care services – social and community-led events that would allow carers and their loved ones to meet other carers, receive guidance and support and most importantly for the careers, have a break and some rest. What action is the Government planning to take to support unpaid carers, like Kim, and give them regular breaks and support?
I believe that the Government must invest in support for unpaid carers – they deserve to live a life outside of their unpaid caring responsibilities. The COVID-19 pandemic may be over for some, but for carers and vulnerable people, this is not true. This is why I urge you to put in place a Recovery and Respite Plan for Unpaid Carers, outlining immediate additional support for carers across a range of areas – including breaks, respite and care services, financial help, and support to juggle work and care.
I cannot overestimate how much unpaid carers have been at the heart of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. Sadly due to continued cuts to the NHS in the last 12 year, these unpaid cares underpin our fragile health and social care services. They deserve our upmost respect, admiration and full support.
I look forward to hearing from you.
I have also submitted the following Written Parliamentary Questions:
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, if he will take steps to create more (a) respite and (b) care services for unpaid carers to allow them take regular breaks from their caring duties.
To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, if he will take steps to produce a recovery and respite plan for unpaid carers
I am pleased that Labour is proposing a transformative package of support and the first ever long-term, whole-Government plan for improving mental health outcomes. Under the plan, we will recruit 8,500 new staff so that one million additional people can access treatment every year by the end of Labour’s first term in office. We would also guarantee NHS mental health treatment within a month for all who need it. I am really proud of my Party’s dedication to mental health – we know this is a huge issue for so many people across the country and it is so frustrating that the Government continues to ignore.
Without family carers, our social care system would collapse. And yet, the Government’s plans to ‘fix the crisis in social care’ will do nothing to support the millions of unpaid carers who are seeing their own health and finances suffer because of their caring responsibilities. That’s why I am calling on the Government to deliver a proper plan for social care that gives family carers the decent support they so desperately need. Families cannot wait any longer – they need help and they need it now.