Lib Dems promise week respite for unpaid carers

Posted on: 13 April 2010 by Gareth Hargreaves

In the first of three editorials on the major parties campaign plans, Liberal Democrat Health and Older people's spokesperson, Greg Mulholland MP outlines his party's comittment and plans to meet the needs of the UK's 17million over 50s.

Currently there are 2.5m pensioners are living below the bread line. Since the 1980s when the link with earnings was broken, the basic state pension has been gradually devalued and currently isn’t enough to live on. To get more money pensioners have to fill out complex, demeaning forms. Millions struggle to pay their fuel bills, and tens of thousands have to sell their home to pay for care every year.

Liberal Democrats will change things for older people. We believe everyone deserves a pension that’s enough to live on and fair treatment from government, public services and business alike. We believe older people should not be forced out of work by an arbitrary deadline, but should choose when they want to retire.

It is unfair that as each year goes by, pensioners slip further behind. It is only fair that, at times when the country is getting richer, retired people share the benefit. We will immediately restore the link between pensions and earnings so pensioners’ living standards finally improve.  

Nearly 37,000 people died from the cold last winter, most of them elderly. Energy bills are too expensive for too many people, especially pensioners who often spend all day at home. We will force energy companies to introduce “social tariffs”, lower than their other prices, for everyone struggling to make ends meet.

It is unfair to assume that just because someone has reached a particular age, they are not fit to do a particular job. People should be judged on their ability to do their work not their age. We would remove compulsory retirement ages.

We will make sure no-one pays tax on the first £10,000 of their income. Pensioners will get up to £100 extra in their pockets. The change will be paid for by a new mansion tax, closing loopholes that benefit the wealthy and ensuring polluters pay for the damage they cause.

Pensioners and older people often rely on the Post Office, but Labour and the Conservatives before them have closed down more than 10,000. It simply isn’t fair. We will stop Labour’s closure programme and create new sources of revenue for Post Offices like a Post Bank so we can afford to keep them open for good.

The long-term funding system for adult social care in England is not fit for purpose and funding for services is likely to become more difficult in to the future. We want a cross-party commission set up to reach a consensus on social care and sort this problem out once for all. Our preference is for a partnership model, where the state and the individual both contribute, with a guaranteed contribution to the costs of care.

The Government’s ill thought through “Free Personal Care at Home” Bill was finally defeated in the Lords two weeks ago.

The Bill was poorly costed, announced bizarrely at Labour’s party conference and rushed through by the Government. If elected we would scrap this Bill once and for all and use the funds allocated to it to introduce a fairer deal for Britain’s secret army of carers.

We will provide a week’s break from caring every year to the 1 million unpaid carers who provide more than 50hrs care each week.

There are close to five million unpaid carers in England, with a million providing more than 50hrs care each week. In most jobs you get paid holidays but for a huge number of carers that simply isn’t an option. We believe that respite care is a lifeline - not just for carers but for whole families.

Caring matters deeply to families and individuals but when you are taking care of somebody you also need to think about caring for yourself. The millions of unpaid carers in this country deserve as much support as possible. This also makes financial sense because carers who don’t get a break can often end up suffering health problems themselves.

Just imagine how hard it can be to be a carer. There is of course a physical challenge, depending on the needs of the person you are caring for. But also the emotional challenge of seeing someone you love struggle or suffer. Imagine caring for over 50 hrs a week without the right to time off. A week’s respite would give you the time you so desperately need to rest, recuperate, or simply have a holiday.

The needs of older people are complex and through successive Governments the two main parties have failed spectacularly to deal with them. Only the Liberal Democrats are offering older people a fair deal on their pensions, energy supplies and care needs.



Next week, Angela Eagle, Labour Minister for Pensioners and the Ageing Society argues why the over 50s will be better off under a Labour government.

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