Carers are the unsung heros of our communities. Looking after loved ones who are disabled or in frail health, they sacrifice their own careers and social lives in order to ensure that those they care about are cared for. Every day carers put the needs of others before their own needs. Throughout Scotland many thousands of vulnerable adults and young people depend upon the often unrecognised work of an army of unpaid carers.
Speaking about the SNP’s commitment, Health Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Scotland’s carers provide vital support, and we owe it to them to recognise and support the wonderful work they do. We want to get the laws and the guidance right and to make sure they have the help and the backing they need through good times and bad.”
The package of measures promised by the SNP includes a commitment to a Carers’ Parliament to create a forum where carers can raise their concerns and have them addressed at the highest level of government. This unique initiative would permit carers and carers’ groups to speak directly with ministers and MSPs.
Other commitments include a series of practical measures and funding aimed at improving the quality of life of carers.
The party is committed to spending £2 million extra, representing a 50% increase, in the fund to help families with children with severe disabilities to get away for short breaks. Although taken for granted by the rest of society, families with severely disabled children face immense obstacles simply getting away for a few days. These breaks are essential to alleviate the stress and worry that come with caring, and to allow other children in the family to experience a normal family life. Without assistance, families on low incomes struggle to pay for the extra care needs demanded by their disabled child.
Respite care is also vital. Respite care gives carers a break from caring, allowing them precious time to catch up with other needs and commitments. For many carers, brief periods of respite care are essential for their sanity and wellbeing. The SNP is committed to maintaining 10,000 weeks of respite provision for the next five years, assuring respite care needs will be met for thousands of families.
As Scotland’s population becomes increasingly elderly, we will rely more upon unpaid carers to look after their elderly loved ones. £14 million from the social care Change Fund is to be devoted to addressing the needs of unpaid carers.
Society benefits in many ways from the unpaid care provided by carers. If they did not exist, the costs would fall entirely on state provision. Improved support for carers take some of the burden off NHS and social services, and frees up resources and funds.
The SNP’s manifesto commitments to carers include:
- Setting up a unique Carers’ Parliament – something which will provide a powerful direct voice and help with access to MSPs and Scottish government ministers
- A guarantee that £14 million from the social care Change Fund is used to support unpaid carers
- Work to secure proper recognition for kinship carers within the UK’s benefits and support system
- Continuing to fund 10,000 weeks of respite provision for the next five years
- Provide another £2 million to pay for short breaks for families with severely disabled children, taking the total to £6 million
- Ensure young carers are better served by their schools and given easier access to the Education Maintenance Allowance
- Help with increased costs by extending the Energy Assistance package
- Reward employers who offer support and flexibility to carers with a special Kitemark
Florence Burke, the Scottish director of the Princess Royal Trust for Carers welcomed the SNP initiative.
“We welcome the commitment made to ensure that words and policy are translated into action on the ground. We need to move from talk to action – action which really improves the lives of Scotland’s 657,000 unpaid carers and 100,000 young carers. This will be the test for Scotland’s carers as they decide who to vote for in this election.”
Ms Sturgeon added: ” Without the love and help of carers, the lives of tens of thousands of Scots would be so much more difficult. They can be assured that if re-elected, we will see them as a priority group and do everything we can to give them our support.”