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Supporting carers in Lewisham

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10 August 2012
Supporting carers in Lewisham During my time in Parliament I have met with a variety of carers – of the elderly, the disabled and those with mental health needs, and of children in care. Their contribution to society often goes unrecognised and many struggle to get the support that they need.

Carers Lewisham estimate that there are around 22,000 carers in the borough, although this is difficult to quantify accurately because of the number of people who care for relatives, friends and neighbours but never make themselves known to the authorities. As a result, many of them never get the advice and assistance they deserve.

With the aim of improving the supply of social care and identifying “hidden” carers, I have recently sponsored a Private Members’ Bill in the House of Commons. The Bill has been proposed by Salford Labour MP Barbara Keeley.

The Social Care (Local Sufficiency) and Identification of Carers Bill aims to: 
 
  • Revolutionise the way that Local Authorities plan social care provision, for both people who buy services and those who rely on the Council’s social care services
  • Focus on ensuring the right services are planned and developed to help carers struggling to juggle work and caring for ill or disabled loved ones
  • Create statutory duties on the NHS, schools, colleges and universities to identify carers and signpost them to support and advice

I have lent my support to the Bill because I believe Local Authorities have an obligation to plan and commission social care services by looking at whether people in their area have enough access to care. When the House of Commons returns in September, I will be supporting the Bill in Parliament but before that I decided it was important to meet with Lewisham Carers to hear about their experiences with local care services.

The carers I met with described a “constant battle” to get the support that they need. In a recent survey of around 70 users of Lewisham carers, all those who responded said that they do not get enough respite (i.e. time off from their caring responsibilities). Their experiences also echoed that of a recent nationwide survey which found that two out of five carers have put off medical treatment because of their caring role. Other issues raised included difficulties in understanding recent welfare reforms, experiences with carers’ assessments and a lack of communication between health and care professionals. One of the young carers described her own worries in deciding whether she could fulfil her dream of going to university, as it means leaving the family home.

The carers I spoke to felt lucky to have the support of Carers Lewisham, with one stating that it is their “life-line”. Unfortunately, the variation in local support for carers and the number of hidden carers means that many are not part of a support network. While getting legislation such as this from the backbenches through Parliament is always a challenge, I hope that raising awareness of the experiences of carers such as those in Lewisham helps more people to get the support they deserve.

If you would like to share with me your own experiences as a carer, to help us present our case to Government, please email me on info@heidialexander.org.uk. If you would like more information on Lewisham Carers you can visit their website here.


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