Sunday, 2 May 2010

Challenging Lib Dems over "double-ring-fenced" respite money for carers

At a Haringey Carers Hustings on Friday 30 April, Lib Dem MP Lynne Featherstone (Hornsey & Wood Green) said that Lib Dems would improve access to respite breaks for carers who devote more than 50 hours per week to caring. She said that the money would be "double ring-fenced." I had previously heard/read that Lib Dem policy was toward improving carers' access to short-breaks, but not discovered detail of how they would ensure the money would get to carers.[1] (Notably, Nick Clegg talks about carers' rights to respite care and talks about carers' rights to respite care. But it seems to me that that repetition gets in the way of spelling out how carers would actually get the money.)
So I questioned her afterwards as to the relationship between "double ring-fenced" funds and what Lib Dem Treasury Spokesperson Vince Cable's statement that no budget should be ring-fenced. She seemed unaware of Cable's widely reported statement about ring-fenced funds, and said, "I will speak to Vince about it."
At this time of writing, a Yahoo! Search "Vince Cable" "ring fenced" or "ring-fenced"produces 1,800 results.[2]
An essential theme of the GPEW manifesto is combating inequalities and supporting the most vulnerable. We are committed to: "Providing more short breaks to families, including disabled people or those with long-term illnesses. Such early intervention schemes have been shown to save money by preventing crises."[3] [4]The existing reality regarding ring-fenced funds for carers is that by October 2009, £40m of the £50m allocated to carers for the year 2009-10 had been spent by PCTs, but not on carers.[5]
Anne Roberts, Chief Executive at Crossroads Care [said]: "Carers need support. Without a break they can often reach crisis point where their own physical and mental health deteriorates. When carers reach this point, PCTs will have to provide additional support at additional cost, so failure to provide carers' breaks is short-sighted."
It took a Freedom of Information request by two carers' charities to provide the info about PCTs' misspending of Carers Strategy money in order to 'balance the books'. Carers' issues were largely ignored by the editors/censors of questions used in the televised leaders debates -- much as the sham of 'work capability assessment' results was avoided despite questions being submitted.Our emphasising the importance of ring-fenced Carers Strategy money now can add to our track record of speaking out for carers in the likely event of a hung parliament leading shortly to another GE within the year.
Alan Wheatley is Disability Spokesperson for the Green Party and a member of Camden Green Party

Notes[1] Clegg sets out respite for carers guarantee The Liberal Democrats: News Detail[2][3][4][5] research reveals health bodies are failing carers

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