My Lords, the Government have worked hard to improve support for carers and are determined to do even more. Our new White Paper, published last week, proposes a range of measures for improved carer support, including an information helpline, an expert carers programme and emergency respite care. The existing carers steering group, comprising representatives from several government departments, will co-ordinate implementation of those measures to improve the health and well-being of carers.
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that helpful reply and for all the attention paid to carers in the recent White Paper. He will, I think, be aware that ITN is running a campaign for carers in association with the lunchtime and evening news bulletins. Entitled "Who Cares?", it aims to raise the profile of carers. One of the things that it is calling for is a carers tsar, who would co-ordinate and spearhead policy across departments. Will the Minister give the Government's reaction to that suggestion and indicate when the review of the national carers strategy, launched in 1999, will begin?
My Lords, I am sure that the whole House pays tribute to the work that my noble friend has done in the interests of carers over the years. I am aware of the ITN campaign, and we welcome the higher awareness of carers' issues that it achieves. With regard to a carers tsar, my noble friend will be aware that we already have a number of national clinical directors—for example, for social care, older people and disease-specific groups such as cancer and diabetes—who pay great attention to the issues of carers. As part of the White Paper follow-through, we will encourage councils and PCTs to have a carers lead to develop services locally.
My Lords, will the noble Lord help on this question? NICE made a decision a month or so ago on Alzheimer drugs, but it failed to take into account, when balancing the cost of the drug with the cost of carers, that the drug cost £2.50 a day and carers cost an enormous amount more. Will he please make sure that, when NICE makes its decisions, it takes into account not only the medical aspects but the cost to social security budgets and the cost of caring?
My Lords, I am sure that the noble Earl is aware that, in the case to which he refers, NICE went out to consultation and listened to the comments made. It has reconsidered its position on the group of drugs involved in that study and has put forward revised proposals for further consultation. I do not wish to comment further until that consultation process ends.
My Lords, does the Minister agree that there is now an increasing number of carers caring for longer and longer because medical advances ensure that the people they care for have a longer life expectancy? Many of those carers need and wish to work for all the reasons that we understand. Therefore, a much more flexible working pattern is essential. A very good example is that created by BT, which many more employers need to follow. A tsar or somebody with the task of co-ordinating the work that is done for carers could encourage such an initiative and perhaps ensure that it happens.
My Lords, the noble Baroness is right. The 2001 census showed that in England and Wales there were 5.2 million carers—one in 10 of the population. We wish to encourage employers to show flexibility in the arrangements for staff who have caring duties. I will not repeat the answer that I gave to my noble friend Lady Pitkeathley on a tsar, but we are well seized of the need to support carers in this area.
My Lords, will the Minister answer the question asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Pitkeathley, about when the national carers strategy would be reviewed? When will that review commence? When will it be complete? That information is essential to local authorities, which will have to introduce the White Paper provisions on a cost-neutral basis.
My Lords, we have already started the national carers strategy review. The White Paper set out some of the agendas that will be tackled in that area.
My Lords, we are taking that agenda forward, as we always do with regard to carers. I will give further and better particulars to my noble friend in writing.
My Lords, I am sure that the Minister is aware that this week is eating disorders awareness week. Following the helpful comments of his honourable friend Rosie Winterton yesterday, could he confirm that the Government recognise the tremendous work done by the parents and carers of the 1.1 million young people who suffer from these disorders?
My Lords, is my noble friend the Minister aware that some grandparents are caring for their grandchildren because their own children are incapacitated in some way? I come across this as chair of the National Treatment Agency with drug-using parents. Grandparents who are carers are given little support and respite, yet they save the state a lot of money. What is the Government's view of that?
My Lords, we recognise that some grandparents provide care. In those circumstances, they can claim child benefit and possibly child tax credits. Local authorities are in such circumstances empowered to assist with the care of children and young people who are not looked after.