Wednesday, 19 October 2011

We must keep fighting to support Reading's Carers

Last night the Council agreed two important motions calling for justice and action to support two vulnerable groups in our community: Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay and Transgender people and Reading Gurkhas and their families.

I was delighted to support both.

In the same meeting I spoke up for another group of unsung heroes: carers.

Over the past couple of years I have actively campaigned to raise the profile of issues facing carers and improve the lives of carers in Reading.

The carers I have met here have been some of the most selfless people I have ever encountered. I am grateful to them for sharing their struggles with me so I can better understand the challenges they face.

My Grandfather cared for my Grandmother in the last years of her life and I honour his memory in part by standing up for others who give up their time to care for their loved ones.

We are lucky that in Government we have a Liberal Democrat Minister in Paul Burstow standing up for carers. When he visited Reading in April I took him to meet a couple who had benefited from direct payments for carers - something he is pushing to extend to more people.

Last night I tabled a question asking for an estimate of the total number of carers in Reading and to outline the steps the administration is taking to identify carers and ensure they get access to services  of the total population.

I did this because I want to ensure that carers in Reading remain at the top of the political agenda regardless of which political party or parties are running the Council.

The answer I got confirmed that at the last count (2011 Census) 10,854 people in Reading were carers - 7.6% of the total population. Reading's total population has grown since 2001 and currently estimated to be around 154,000. This suggests there are between 11,873 and 16,972 carers in Reading.

We await the results of the 2011 Census but it is highly likely that the actual number of carers in Reading is even higher.
  • In 2010, nearly 1,599 carers benefited from receiving an assessment or review of their needs through Adult Social Care. This puts Reading in the top 25 % per cent of similar local authorities.
  • RBC has 307 identified young carers in Reading receiving support from our youth team - a 46% increase on the number identified in 2010.
  • The number of carers benefiting from a Direct Payment to meet their own support needs has quadrupled in the three years to 2010/11 through the Council's Carers' Breaks and Opportunities Fund.
In my supplementary question I pointed out that last year in response to demand I agreed an increase of £50,000 over above the agreed budget of the Carer's Breaks and Opportunities Fund to ensure that carers got the breaks they need in response to increases and in many cases previously unmet need.

A survey of Reading carers in 2010 found that the number one priority for local carers is supporting carers to get breaks.

When I was Lead Member or Adult Social Care I placed support for carers at the heart of our policies. I asked the Lead Member if he would undertake to do the same when he sets next year's budget.

I was pleased to hear the current Labour lead councillor Cllr Orton confirm that I did indeed increase the budget and that he would seek to maintain spending carers breaks at current levels.

1 comment:

  1. My annual payment from the council as a carer has fallen from £500 to £200. If the budget has been increased i can't understand why the amount i get has been reduced. I am also concerned that these payments aren't that well advertised. I was aware of them through information from carers uk when i did make a request it was because i did the spade work not because it was promoted as part of the assessment.