Activities outside Parliament

Carers Rights Day: Margam 2nd December 2011

Introduction: A Personal Explanation

I am very pleased to be with you today on Carers Rights Day to campaign with you and to celebrate with you the work of carers locally and throughout the country.

I should explain that I feel strongly about valuing carers because Mair and I speak from experience, having been carers of our son, Sam who had Down’s Syndrome and a heart condition. He died in 1997 when he was sixteen.

For us, the personal is the political.

Since that time in 1997 I have spent much of my political life campaigning inside and outside Parliament for carers.

My maiden speech in 2001 was about carers and disabled people.

My campaigning has included passing my Carers Equal Opportunities Act in 2004, establishing the Carers All Party Parliamentary Group of which I was its founding chair, becoming a national vice-president of Carers UK and being president of a number of local carers organisations such as the Carers Action Movement and the Epilepsy Group.

And as chair of the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights I am always vigilant and alert to the pressing needs of carers.

I am often impatient, sometimes angry and always amazed and inspired by the way in which carers continue despite ill-health, tiredness, insufficient respect and insufficient financial support.

And that last point - financial support is what I want to talk about today.

Financial support - Money Matters

I am very pleased that the theme of this year’s Carers Rights Day is Money Matters, as it does matter.

The Carers UK slogan has always been the need for the 3 Rs

  • Respect
  • Respite
  • Recompense

And the most important is recompense - financial support, as money matters, in providing some help in carers’ lives to alleviate their daily burden.

The legacy

Before I say something about the present situation let me say something about what has been achieved and this is the only point when I become party political.

It was the Labour Government in 1997 which established the National Carers’ Strategy and the carers’ grant and the carers’ allowance.

It was the subsequent Labour Governments which increased those grants and benefits, recognised the need for flexible working for carers, compensated carers through their pensions and supported my Carers Equal Opportunities Act which made it a statutory responsibility of local authorities for carers to be informed of their rights to an assessment.

It was the last Labour Government that ensured the 2011 Census included questions on carers, when attempts were being made to exclude them, and also gave some financial recognition for part-time workers who are carers.

And of course we have heard this morning about the welcome new Welsh Assembly Carers Measure.

The situation today

Today we are well aware of the attack on the most vulnerable in society - the disabled, the low paid, single parents, the elderly, the unemployed and carers – by making cuts in the benefit system as a consequence of the recession.

What is to be done?

  • Carers need to know their rights and organise through their local and national organisations to ensure that they get what they are entitled to under the law. The excellent Carers UK pamphlet Looking after someone: a guide to carers rights and benefits 2011/12 needs to be made available to all carers.
  • All carers should also be given the Carers UK guide entitled Carers and their Rights: The Law relating to Carers.
  • We can all of us - Statutory and voluntary bodies working in partnership - be a lot more active and ambitious in making carers more aware of their rights, not just to benefits but to respite care, information on work, leisure and training opportunities. They should be more pro-active in sign-posting carers to supportive organisations such as CABs and Credit Unions as well as of course local carers’ organisations.
  • And more specifically we can all be ambitious in encouraging local health bodies and local authorities to make carers more aware of their rights to have a carers’ assessment. At the moment there is a low take-up locally and probably across the whole of Wales. I would be keen to work with the Chief Executives of ABMU and NPTCBC as well as the Health Minister along with Carers Wales and local organisations to raise the numbers of assessments dramatically.

The Carers’ Assessment

If carers are unaware of their basic right to an assessment then it is very likely that they are unaware of their other rights – to their various benefits, including in - kind benefits such as respite, advice and guidance, professional, emotional support, information about carers organisations and other valuable networks.

National Carers’ Rights Day

Today - National Carers’ Rights Day is a day of celebration of what carers have achieved and continue to achieve for their loved ones – after all 80% of all caring is done by unpaid carers, in their own homes, whether they are very young carers, middle aged carers, or very, very old carers.

And it is also a day of hope for the future. Saying our thanks to carers by promising to fight harder for them to achieve justice – especially financial justice – now and in the future. I will end with the words of Carers UK in their description why we have Carers Rights Day:

‘Families across the country are struggling with high household bills and worries about jobs. But families affected by illness and disability can struggle more than most - as they struggle with the additional costs of caring and often lost earnings as a result of illness and disability. This means that there has never been a more important time for carers to know their rights and access all the financial and practical support they are entitled to.

The theme for this year's Carers Rights Day is simple: Money Matters - because without support, we know that carers can end in debt, struggling to pay essential bills and sometimes sick with the stress of it.

Carers Rights Day is about getting carers the information and advice they need to claim benefits, get a carer’s assessment and access support.’

And that quite simply is why I am here with you today, as your Member of Parliament, championing as best I can, your cause, our cause.

Diolch. Thank you.

Hywel Francis

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