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I beg to move,
That this House
has considered the matter of carers.
I am pleased to open this debate on carers during national carers week. The way we look after people with care and support needs defines us as a society. Everyone, at some point in their lives, will know and love someone who needs care. Many of us will need care ourselves, for whatever reason. It is an indication of the strength of our society that every day, between 5 million and 6 million people care for their family members. They do an incredible job, often giving up a huge amount to care for someone they love. Carers are not a group separate from the rest of society—they are society.
Through the 10-year carers strategy, which, as some hon. Members will remember, we launched almost exactly a year ago today, the Government want all carers to be universally recognised and valued as being fundamental to strong families and stable communities. That is the unifying vision for the future of our long-term strategy. We want support that is tailored to meet an individual's needs. We want carers to be able to care for the ones whom they love and still enjoy a life of their own. We demand recognition that both carers and the cared for are full and equal citizens.
We have a lot to do before we realise that vision but, one year on, we are on our way. One person who will help us to realise that vision is the chair of the standing commission on carers. I am delighted to announce to the House that Dr. Philippa Russell has been appointed to that role. I want to place on record my thanks to her and all members of the commission for the work that they are doing to develop, implement and monitor the strategic vision, alongside the cross-Government programme board that has been established, and of course the inter-ministerial group, which I chair.
I want to begin by recognising the particular contribution and needs of young carers. We have a special duty to support young carers and to protect them from excessive caring burdens and inappropriate caring roles. As part of our £75-million Think Family programme to support all families at risk, the Department for Children, Schools and Families has set up six extended family pathfinders for young carers. The Department of Health is supporting those pathfinders to test how we can better support families with young carers. We believe that young people who have caring responsibilities for a family member should not be denied the right to enjoy their childhood, and to grow up like every other child.
Yesterday, together with the Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, my hon. Friend Jonathan Shaw, who is the Minister with responsibility for disability, I met carers in Islington and Camden at the official launch of the new website and telephone helpline for carers, Carers Direct, which I will say more about in a moment. One of the concerns that people there raised was the lack of awareness of the needs of carers among the host of different organisations and individuals whom they encounter in the health service and on local councils. I agree with them that it is important that professionals and others who offer support for carers do so while understanding their needs. That is why, over the next two years, Skills for Care and Skills for Health will develop a range of new training programmes and awareness-raising modules about carers for those professionals. We have also commissioned the Royal College of General Practitioners to develop training for GPs, based on the new action guide for primary care, to help GPs better understand carers' needs.
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