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Part of Bill Presented – in the House of Commons at 2:00 pm on 11th June 2009.

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Photo of Phil Hope Phil Hope Minister of State (the East Midlands), Regional Affairs, Minister of State (the East Midlands), Department of Health 2:00 pm, 11th June 2009

With the leave of the House, Mr. Deputy Speaker, I shall respond to the debate.

I thank all hon. Members for their valuable contributions. I particularly thank my right hon. Friend Mrs. McGuire and Jeremy Wright for their clear and moving speeches. I am pleased that carers week gave us the opportunity to engage in this debate, and also to give other hon. Members and organisations an opportunity to engage in debates throughout the country. I thank all the organisations that work to support and represent carers, not just national organisations, but the organisations in Members' constituencies of which we have heard today, which do such fantastic work all over the country.

Angela Watkinson reminded us of the role played not just by carers but by volunteers and befrienders. The fact that 20 million people offer their services voluntarily to the community is, along with the number of carers, a sign that we have a strong society with its values in the right place.

Let me try to clarify the question of numbers. I understand that the 5 million figure given yesterday relates to the number of carers in England, while the 6 million figure given by Carers UK relates to the whole United Kingdom. However, as we were told by Mr. Burstow, the figures may be even higher, because not all carers identify themselves as such.

Hon. Members pointed out that GPs provide an important gateway to the necessary resources, and drew attention to the need for support for both young and older carers. They also mentioned dementia. The hon. Member for Rugby and Kenilworth, who chairs the all-party group on dementia, spoke of the importance of responding to the individual needs of different people in different ways and tailoring support. Caring can sometimes be very distressing and demanding.

Let me say a few things that I did not have an opportunity to say in my opening speech. Hon. Members referred to carers who want both to care and to go on working. We want to help them to do that. Jobcentre Plus is recruiting specialist care partnership managers, who will be responsible for improving information on carers support for both staff and customers. We want to try to remove some of the barriers faced by carers who wish to return to paid employment. We want to stand up and represent their employment interests in a variety of partnerships. The aim of Employers for Carers, an organisation launched earlier this year, is to identify and promote the business benefits of supporting carers at work. Many employed people also have caring responsibilities, and Employers for Carers offers practical support for the development and benchmarking of good practice.

I do not have time to respond to all the points that have been raised, but I will say to Mr. O'Brien, who listed a number of demands and complaints, that I did not hear from him a single commitment or pledge of support for any particular policy. I feel that he struck a discordant note in choosing to create a party-political divide by calling for an election. That was silly. He made a sad, slightly whingeing and unhelpful contribution to an important debate which should have united the House. Similarly, Greg Mulholland asked questions but offered no information about the Liberal Democrats' proposals—

One and a half hours having elapsed since the commencement of proceedings, the motion lapsed (Standing Order No. 24A) .

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Clive Arnold
Posted on 13 Jun 2009 10:55 am

This annotation has been removed