The Liberal Democrats are planning on fighting the 2015 general election by pledging additional support for people who provide full-time care for elderly or disabled relatives.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told the Telegraph newspaper that the Liberal Democrats would pledge to provide carers with additional financial support on top of existing carers benefits, if the party are still in government after 2015.
This would come in the shape of a £250 “Carers’ Bonus” to help enable people who care for elderly and disabled relatives to take much-needed respite breaks away from their caring duties.
Nick Clegg’s “Carers’ Bonus” will be included the Liberal Democrats 2015 general election manifesto and will be initially worth £125 per year, rising to £250 per year by 2020.
Carers would need to be receipt of the benefit Carer’s Allowance to qualify for the additional financial support and the money would be targeted at those who make the biggest sacrifices to care for a loved-one, such as having to give up work.
The money would be paid in cash and carers would be free to decide how to spend it, which could include arranging alternative care for their relative(s) so that they can take respite breaks.
Writing in the Telegraph newspaper, Nick Clegg said:
“Our carers live lives the rest of us would find almost impossible to imagine and respite means different things to different people. Some carers might use the money to hire a care assistant to help them out for a week. Others might put it towards getting away themselves, or pay for a cleaner to come to their home”.
He added: “Books, music, clothes, a day out with loved ones. The point is our carers should be able to spend the money however they see fit. What matters to me is that we do whatever we can to show our thanks and ease the pressure the nation’s carers face.”
Paying tribute to all those who give-up several hours of their lives to care for vulnerable relatives, Mr Clegg wrote:
“If you have ever come into contact with a carer you will understand why these men and women deserve to be singled out for extra support at a time of ongoing restraint. Their contribution is extraordinary,” he said. “They are saving our health and care services enormous sums at a time when every penny counts”, he added.
However, the plan has been criticised by Labour, who say the Liberal Democrats have “made carers’ lives harder” and together with their coalition allies (the Conservative Party) “have left social care services close to collapse”.
Responding to Nick Clegg’s announcement on Carers Allowance, Labour’s Shadow Health Minister Andrew Gwynne said:
“Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats will be judged on their record in Government.
“He wants to talk about carers in the next manifesto, but in truth he made carers’ lives harder as when he took away care support for their family while 60,000 carers have been hit by their unfair bedroom tax.
“He’s left social care services close to collapse and a quarter of a million people have lost support in recent years. You can’t trust a word the Liberal Democrats say.”
Around 10% of people in the UK provide unpaid care for an elderly and/or disabled friend or relative. Over a third of these provide care lasting for over 20 hours per week.
A survey for the NHS found that the majority of carers believe they have had to put their own lives on hold due to caring responsibilities.