It is always a pleasure to visit the studio at the Royal Cornwall Hospital to catch up with the CHBN radio team who do such a great job of entertaining staff and patients. Two years ago I was delighted to help the CHBN team secure a Community Radio licence, allowing them to broadcast on FM across the Truro area. As the Government looks at ways to free up community radio stations from historic funding restrictions I look forward to helping CHBN radio further expand its operations.
I was in the studio earlier this month to discuss a subject very close to my heart, how we can best support carers. There are estimated to be 6.5 million unpaid carers across the UK. In addition to the incredible difference this makes to the lives of people living with ill health, this voluntary care saves the UK health system an estimated £119bn a year.
Our discussion at CHBN radio was timely for a week in which the Government announced that the earnings threshold for Carers’ Allowance will be raised to £110 a week. This change means that more people will have the opportunity to work part-time and still be eligible for the full £61.35 a week Carers’ Allowance.
This increase is welcome. In the words of David Cameron ‘giving up your own time to take care of someone else is one of the most selfless things that anyone can do’. We should do everything we can to support people who make this choice.
I have been working to boost this support. I am particularly pleased that a key 2010 Conservative Manifesto promise, stating that access to respite for carers would be increased, has been delivered despite the constraints of Coalition Government. £400 million has now been given to the NHS to enable carers to take more breaks from their caring responsibilities.
It was also good to serve on the Care Bill Committee, improving what became the Care Act to ensure that it delivered a better deal for carers. The final Act secured new rights for Carers, described by Carers UK, a charity I with whom I have served as Parliamentary Ambassador, as ‘by far the strongest rights for carers yet’. We can go further. It is great that over recent decades our society has grown more family friendly, with people being helped to balance bringing up their children with work, now we have to ensure similar flexibility and tailored support for those caring for older family members.
In Cornwall I have worked with the Cornwall Carer’s Service to help local people with caring responsibilities. Managed by the Cornwall Rural Community Council the Service provides support and advice to local carers and can be contacted on 01872 266 383. With the help of the Cornwall Carer’s Service I will be mailing out a copy of my updated ‘How to save money on your heating bills’ guide to 7000 local carers later this autumn. If you would like a copy please call my office on 01872 274 760.