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Older Women: Caring Support

Women and Equalities – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 25th February 2016.

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Photo of Henry Bellingham Henry Bellingham Conservative, North West Norfolk 9:30 am, 25th February 2016

What steps the Government are taking to support older women with caring responsibilities; and if she will make a statement.

Photo of Caroline Dinenage Caroline Dinenage Minister for Equalities (Department for Education), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

Unpaid carers are the backbone of our society. That is why the Care Act 2014 gave carers new rights that focus on their wellbeing and give them properly targeted support. We have also invested £1.6 million in a series of pilots to look at the best ways to support those who have caring responsibilities.

Photo of Henry Bellingham Henry Bellingham Conservative, North West Norfolk

I have been visiting care homes and care companies in my constituency that are currently facing unprecedented challenges. Does the Minister agree that this places an even greater onus on older carers, who do invaluable and compassionate work? What measures will she put in place to help older carers get back into employment when their care duties come to an end?

Photo of Caroline Dinenage Caroline Dinenage Minister for Equalities (Department for Education), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

I absolutely agree with my hon. Friend. Unpaid carers are the unsung heroes of our economy. The value of informal care is about £62 billion a year. For many carers it is literally a labour of love, which is why we have extended the right to request flexible working. A pilot project is considering the best way to support carers, through investment in technology and professional support, to stay in employment.

Photo of Kirsten Oswald Kirsten Oswald Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Armed Forces and Veterans)

A constituent visited my surgery last week to seek help. She had planned to retire and care for her elderly mother, but she now finds, unexpectedly, that her retirement date will be significantly later than planned. Does the Minister understand the wide implications of the issue raised by the Women Against State Pension Inequality campaign and the real difficulties that problems with notification of pension date changes are causing for 1950s-born women with caring responsibilities?

Photo of Caroline Dinenage Caroline Dinenage Minister for Equalities (Department for Education), The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

The hon. Lady makes a valid point. I understand the concerns, but she must remember that the new state pension will give 650,000 women an average increase of £416 a year on their pension and, in addition, support those who take time out of employment, for example for caring roles, by crediting this very important work.