HC Deb 27 November 1989 vol 162 c428
8. Mr. Bowis

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Security how many carers he expects will be helped by the proposed introduction of a carers' premium.

Mr. Scott

We expect the new £10 premium, being introduced next October, to help 30,000 carers—one third through income support and the remainder through housing benefit or community charge benefit.

Mr. Bowis

I thank my right hon. Friend for that very good news and congratulate him on being part of the first Government to give formal and financial recognition to the unsung band of heroes and heroines who look after the elderly and the sick. As my right hon. Friend's policy progresses, will he consider particularly the perhaps 20 per cent. of carers who are themselves elderly and may have a small second pension which precludes them from benefiting from the premium? Will he also consider the whole question of respite, because many more people could act as carers or remain as carers if they had a break from time to time? Perhaps my right hon. Friend will take that into account when working out the funding for community care.

Mr. Scott

I should make it clear, of course, that a pensioner in receipt of invalid care allowance would be entitled to the premium. People cannot qualify for invalid care allowance after retirement age because the allowance is intended specifically for those who have given up work or refrained from work to look after someone. However, I will bear in mind both the points made by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Ashley

Instead of polite gestures to carers, is it not time to recognise that looking after severely disabled people is a full-time job which should bring a proper income? When can carers expect that?

Mr. Scott

The Labour Government failed to proved any recognition for the role of carers. This measure is a modest but important recognition of their important role.

Mr. Wigley

Does the Minister accept that in 1985 the Office of Population Censuses and Surveys identified 6 million informal carers in Britain, 3.7 million of whom were bearing the main care burden? Does not the Minister's figure of 30,000 pale into significance compared with that need? Will he make resources available to meet the main need of the bulk of carers?

Mr. Scott

As the hon. Gentleman says, many carers are caring for people in their own homes in an informal manner. We should need vast resources to pay a significant premium to every one of them. Incidentally, I am surprised that the hon. Gentleman, who is normally a very generous man, did not at least acknowledge that we have taken a step in the right direction.

Mr. Favell

Is it not irresponsible for the Opposition to try to pretend that only they care for the carers?

Mr. Scott

Indeed. I believe that by this significant move in introducing the premium we have shown that we recognise the role of carers.

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