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It is estimated that our 6 million carers are worth £87 billion in the burden that they shift from our public services—both social care and the health service. Taking on that responsibility affects their physical and financial health in the long term. We know from the statistics that were published during last year's national carers week that many carers find that by the time they have finished their caring role, their earnings potential has been diminished and their savings have been run down, and they feel let down as a consequence.
It is good to have a national strategy that outlines many aspirations, which will be shared by everyone in this House and beyond it, but setting ambitions for 2018 makes them seem an awfully long time away. The message that I have heard from carers who are caring today is that they cannot wait for those ambitions to be realised by 2018, or for the carer's allowance to be raised at some point in the future. Can the Minister therefore guarantee that the Government will shortly set out a timetable for the very necessary reform of the carer's allowance?
I wonder also whether the Minister could say a little more about the time scale for the roll-out of the national strategy. It is not entirely clear what the milestones are and how carers on the ground can satisfy themselves about the strategy and hold people to account locally for delivering it. At the event that I attended yesterday, Lorraine Brown said that better services for carers of young people and for the cared-for, such as younger people with dementia, were particularly important. All too often, dementia services for people who become senile at an early age are inadequate. They are often put with older people suffering from dementia, in a setting entirely inappropriate for them. More needs to be done to cater for that group, and that is certainly a concern that Lorraine Brown has.
Jackie Ure wanted to make the point yesterday that carers have a sense of struggle and of navigating their way through a complex system. All too often there is no one there to guide them, hold their hand and support them until they turn up at the door of the carers centre in Sutton, where that support is provided. That situation is replicated up and down the country, with people waiting for an assessment, battling to get the right care plan implemented and then ensuring that the financial assessments do not financially cripple the individual concerned. All those matters make caring a burden that it should not be. It is a burden that people willingly take on, and we should not be making it worse through the systems that we construct around people.
I have not spoken at great length today, but I wanted to represent my constituents who willingly shoulder that burden for children, loved ones, husbands, wives and others. I hope that the Minister will be able to give us some reassurance about what will happen in respect of the carer's allowance, and some sense that he understands that it is not good enough for him to say to MPs simply that we have to hold our local PCTs to account. He has a responsibility to ensure that PCTs put their money where their mouth is and deliver for carers.
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