Unseen, unsung, unjust: carers need more help

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should be something to rejoice about , but while caring is love, it also needs effort – veering towards work – and it is mostly unpaid. Many people in North Dorset, as everywhere in the UK, provide unpaid care. At the 2021 census there were approximately 5,500 people providing unpaid care in North Dorset. That’s roughly one in 14 of us. Around 2,400 of us in North Dorset were caring for others, unpaid, for more than 50 hours per week. Consider then the additional numbers of people who are also contending with caring, unpaid, for people with diseases like dementia. A fellow constituent got in touch just last week to share their pain and frustration at the lack of support available to help care for his wife’s increasing needs. Liberal Democrats support increasing the Carer’s Allowance and making respite breaks a statutory right for unpaid carers to ensure they receive the support they need. But this is only part of the answer to a bigger challenge.
For years, unpaid care has been one part of the wider failure to come up with a solution for social care. The Dilnot Report concluded in 2011 that the adult social care system was not fit for purpose and required more funding, and if media plaudits are the metric of success then it did a great job. But that report ran into the sand as the coalition government gave way to the current government in 2015. The sorry observation is that all politicians have an idea about what could be done to solve the problem. It’s just that none can work out how to get re-elected when they’ve done it – just ask Teresa May.
Local councils that pay for social care are starved of cash, which is taking social care backwards. So, the longer we wait, the worse it will get and the unjust situation we have now will become a broader and much more serious economic problem. Our population is ageing, with proportionately fewer workers over time paying tax to support the current care system. So families will inevitably pick up the burden by increasing unpaid care. This will naturally take more people out of the workforce, further reducing the tax being paid, in a predictable vicious circle. It has to be said that this caring burden also falls unequally on women.
Our government has promised everything and achieved nothing for care and carers in England. They say this is a priority, but there is no will and no plan. England is 20 years behind others in the UK. Scotland has a working system that provides means-tested free personal care for over-65s who need it. This law was proposed by Scottish Liberal Democrats and passed in July 2002. In Scotland you don’t have to sell your house before you can have care. Deferred Payment Agreements avoid that prospect. Liberal Democrats prefer the Scottish solution for England too, and it is in our manifesto.
Germany and the Netherlands began solving this problem more than a generation ago, through compulsory social care insurance for all adults. Other solutions are available and while we should learn from others, let’s actually decide and act.
Today, people are enslaved by the way we fail to deal with social care in England – and it could happen to any of us. Liberal Democrats do have the will and we do have a plan to restore people’s freedom and confidence, to enable people to decide and afford what they need, rather than soldier on unseen, unsung and unvalued.
Gary Jackson
North Dorset Liberal Democrats

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