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It is a great pleasure to follow my hon. Friend Angela Watkinson and I substantially agree with many of her points. Indeed, I agree with a great deal of what all contributors to the debate have said—including the Minister, who opened it and whom I am delighted to see still in his place. He knows better than most that this policy area requires consistency of approach, which is difficult to achieve when we have a different Minister every few months. It is a pleasure to see him still in his post.
I shall make just a few points in order to allow the Minister time to respond to the debate. My first is about the number of carers, although I am in agreement with my hon. Friend that, in a sense, it does not much matter whether there are 5 million or 6 million. My point is that the argument should be, at least in part, about how many of those who are carers identify themselves as such. Many do not: they see themselves as doing right by their families, looking after family members in the way that they believe it is incumbent on them to do—without wishing, as she said, to make a fuss or to draw attention to what they do, and without seeking recognition or reward for it.
Carers are often very modest people, with every reason not to be so. The recognition that we rightly give to them—and it should not be just annually in debates like this; I agree with those who say that we should recognise them more frequently, more regularly and more consistently—comes not because they ask for it, but because they richly deserve it. We need to persuade those carers to identify themselves as such before we can offer them the sort of assistance the Minister set out and to which others have referred. The offers of help and support, the information exercises and so forth are linked with the opportunity that we should take to recognise carers and encourage those who do not yet recognise themselves as such to do so in order to access all those streams of support.
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