Clause 5 - Co-operation between health bodies

Carers (Equal Opportunities) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 3:30 pm on 10th March 2004.

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Question proposed, That the clause stand part of the Bill.

Photo of Hywel Francis Hywel Francis Labour, Aberavon

The aim of clause 5 was to ensure that health bodies and social services have a duty to work together to promote the health and welfare of carers. We all know that carers' health is precious; it is vulnerable because of the stress that they bear. We know that caring affects health and that services do not always consider carers' health, and I want the Bill to tackle that.

We have discussed clause 2, and although my legal advice suggests that the original drafting is satisfactory, the Government do not agree for the reasons set out on Second Reading and today. I am grateful to the Minister for finding a way, through directions set out in section 28 of the Health Act 1999, to impress on health bodies the need to focus on and promote carers' health. Therefore, I am willing to omit clause 5 from the Bill.

I think that the directions will breathe new life into the way in which health services think about carers, and the need to promote their health and well-being. I am optimistic that new initiatives will flow from them once they have been issued and fully consulted on. That will improve carers' health and thereby their quality of life.

In discussing the issue with the Neath Port Talbot local health board, I found that it was enthusiastic about the possibility of directions. It has plans to co-operate—indeed, it is already doing so very successfully—with other bodies, particularly the local authority and the council for voluntary service.

I am sure that we can all sign up to what I have outlined and we will benefit many thousands of carers by doing so.

Photo of Stephen Ladyman Stephen Ladyman Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department of Health 3:45 pm, 10th March 2004

Since we have already discussed the directions and other matters under clause 2, I can be brief.

Clause 5 would duplicate existing duties that are placed on the national health service and local authorities under the National Health Service Act 1977 to co-operate in securing and advancing the health and welfare of the people of England and Wales. Carers clearly are people of England and Wales, and, accordingly, there is a duty on local authorities and the national health service to co-operate to secure and advance their health and welfare. No new law is required.

Although it may be true that the national health service rarely considers carers in relation to its duties, the tools for co-operation already exist. It is important to remember that legislation is a change to the law; it is not for sending a message. I am also greatly concerned that the clause would separate carers from the population, not only prejudicing the generality of the existing law, but further separating carers and locking them into their caring role.

The Government's amendments to the Bill will leave the health and social care services in no doubt that they are required to work together. I hope that the Committee will agree that clause 5 should not stand part of the Bill.

Question put and negatived.

Clause 5 disagreed to.