Each Department that supports the cross-government carers strategy is responsible for auditing its contribution. My Department's programmes are subject to independent evaluation. We have asked strategic health authorities to identify where primary care trusts have agreed with their local authorities to prioritise support for carers.
I thank the Secretary of State for his reply. He will know that some young carers fall behind in their studies because of a lack of awareness of their circumstances on the part of school staff. What guidance is given to schools to ensure that they are aware of what is happening and can help those young carers to balance their caring responsibilities with their personal development and education?
The hon. Lady raises an issue about which I care greatly. Some young people in our communities carry an incredible burden whereby they care for a family member and often sacrifice a great deal of their own life chances in doing so. Part of the problem is that the authorities often do not know that they are performing those caring responsibilities. We all have a duty to work harder to identify who those young people are and give them extra support, so that they do not miss out in later life as a result of performing a crucial function in caring for a loved one at a young age.
Does the Secretary of State accept that many carers feel undervalued in the work that they do? How does he see that being radically changed? Will he assure us that family carers do not lose any benefits that they should normally receive?
I agree with the hon. Gentleman that people feel undervalued. It is right to say that carers often face a battle to get support and that that can be very wearying, particularly at a difficult emotional time for their family. That is why we have published today-he did call for radical change-a White Paper that proposes a fundamental reform of social care in England by establishing a national care service, which will be free at the point of use and operate according to need and on NHS principles. It will also give everybody the ability to get peace of mind in later life and to protect what they have worked for. We have also said that the essential characteristics of attendance allowance and disability living allowance will be preserved in any new system.