Families across Oldham East and Saddleworth are facing real challenges when it comes to looking after their elderly and disabled relatives.
Many unpaid carers tell me they feel pushed to breaking point. Too frequently I hear stories from families who say they have to battle all the different services to try and get the support they need. Family carers are twice as likely to be in poor health and one in three has to give up their job or reduce their hours in order to care.
Despite local support groups, such as the Saddleworth Carers, whom I visited last month, often, people aren’t getting help because they don’t see themselves as a carer – they are just a son or daughter, husband or wife, doing what they can to help someone they love.
I know from my personal experience of helping care for my mother when she was living with dementia, just how challenging ing providing care for a loved one can be – although it is also incredibly rewarding. This is why my local priority to make Oldham a dementia-friendly community is so important to me – supporting people living with dementia and their family and friends, by increasing our understanding of dementia and making small changes in our actions to help make their lives better.
Unpaid carers make a huge contribution to their families and our community and, as family life changes, more and more of us will find ourselves looking after our elderly or disabled relatives. There are already 11,076 family carers in Oldham East and Saddleworth and three in five of us will be an unpaid carer at some point in our lives. It can be tough, so we’ll need a government that’s firmly on our side.
It’s not right that people who do so much get so little in return. It also doesn’t make economic sense if a lack of support early on results in families reaching crisis point, with carers either falling ill or being forced to quit work, because of their caring responsibilities.
We need action to give families the support they need. That’s why I’m proud to support Labour’s pledge to help people in Oldham and Saddleworth who are caring for elderly or disabled relatives. Locally, 52% of family carers are aged 50 and over (compared to a nationwide average of 58%), and 268 family carers in the constituency are children under the age of 15.
Labour has announced that in government we will introduce a new duty on the NHS to identify family carers, so that they can get the right help and support, and give carers a new right to ask for an annual health check.
Families caring for people with the greatest needs will have a single point of contact with care services, so they don’t have to battle different parts of the system and tell their story time and time again.
Caring can be really demanding and many people desperately need a break from time to time. Labour will ensure that the funding currently identified for carers’ breaks is properly ring-fenced to make sure all of the money goes to family carers.
We will also consult with employers, trade unions and carers organisations on how to improve flexible working, which could include measures such as a new period of ‘adjustment leave’ to help families cope with a short-term crisis.
We recognise the additional costs that many carers face. That’s why we will abolish the bedroom tax, which hits tens of thousands of carers, and include family carers in the groups who can be eligible for hospital car parking concessions.
Having seen first-hand the difficult job that those who are caring for family members do, in very difficult circumstances, I know that these measures will make a real and practical difference to many families in Oldham East and Saddleworth.
Labour’s Pledge to Family Carers:-
1. Placing a new duty on the NHS to identify family carers, so they can get the right help and support, and giving carers a new right to ask for an annual health check – allowing problems to be identified earlier and prevent costs escalating
2. Giving families caring for people with the greatest needs a single point of contact with care services, so they don’t have to battle different parts of the system
3. Ensuring the funding currently identified for carers’ breaks is properly ring-fenced, to make sure all the money goes to family carers
4. Consulting with employers, trade unions and carers organisations on how to improve flexible working for family carers, which could include measures such as a new period of ‘adjustment leave’ to help families cope with a short-term crisis
5. Recognising the transport costs facing family carers, by including family carers in the groups who can be eligible for hospital car parking concessions
6. Abolishing the bedroom tax – which hits 60,000 carers and penalises them for the extra facilities they need