Question Time — Scottish Executive — Finance and Sustainable Growth – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:15 pm on 14th June 2007.

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Photo of Cathy Peattie Cathy Peattie Labour 2:15 pm, 14th June 2007

To ask the Scottish Executive how it will engage with the voluntary sector in order to support carers in employment and seeking employment. (S3O-248)

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government acknowledges that unpaid carers often face significant barriers in accessing employment. We recognise the role that the voluntary sector can play in supporting carers in employment and seeking employment, both as an employer and as a provider of support. Carers Scotland's recently published national framework for carers and employment sets out valuable messages on the role of flexible employment policies and social care services in helping carers to balance work and caring. I want to ensure that we build that into our thinking as carers policy develops. We must continue to work with voluntary organisations on that important effort.

Photo of Cathy Peattie Cathy Peattie Labour

Will the minister join me in congratulating Carers Scotland on its excellent booklet "Carers and their Rights", which was launched today and which will be a vital tool for every carer in Scotland? Does he agree that, for carers to stay in or to seek work, flexible working, respite care, time to take up training and all the issues around getting into employment are vital? How will he work to support the discussion that needs to happen in the workplace to enable carers to take up or to stay in employment?

Photo of John Swinney John Swinney Scottish National Party

I am happy to congratulate Carers Scotland on the publication of the booklet "Carers and their Rights". I take this opportunity to say how pleased I was to hear that Cathy Peattie has been elected convener of the cross-party group on carers. The issue was dear to my heart in the previous session and I assure her that it will remain dear to my heart in this session.

The Government's policies will assist carers in a number of ways. As we set out in our manifesto, we are determined to tackle issues relating to flexible working, which will not only help carers but have a positive impact on a wide variety of policy areas. We are developing proposals on respite care and further training opportunities. In our joined-up Government, I was delighted this morning to read that the Minister for Public Health has announced support for a national festival for young carers that will take place as a result of a new funding package from the Executive. The festival will provide young carers with the opportunity to meet decision makers, including MSPs, and to have a say on the issues that matter to them. Carers' training, which is a key issue, is one of the priorities of the programme.