HC Deb 16 June 1992 vol 209 cc769-70
8. Mr. Byers

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if she will make a statement on the level of respite care available within the NHS.

Mr. Yeo

We are looking to health, as well as local authorities, further to develop respite care services as part of the implementation of the White Paper, "Caring for People". We recognise the contribution which such services can make to providing practical support for carers.

Mr. Byers

Has the Minister had an opportunity yet to consider the recent survey carried out by the Carers National Association? Is he aware of the main findings of that survey, which are that no less than 20 per cent. of carers had no break for even a day from their caring responsibilities and that no less than two thirds of carers suffered ill health in discharging their caring obligations? In the light of those disturbing findings, will the Government take urgent steps to provide comprehensive respite care within the national health service, or is the Minister content to continue present Government policies which are clearly based on cynical exploitation of the compassion of those who care for others?

Mr. Yeo

I am aware of the survey. Because of our concern about the position of carers, we have identified as the key objectives in our White Paper, "Caring for People", first, to promote the development of respite services and, secondly, to ensure that the service providers make practical support for carers a high priority. Respite care is available in hospitals, nursing homes and people's own homes through better domiciliary services. The number of short-stay residents in care homes is double the 1979 level.

Sir John Hannam

Will my hon. Friend confirm that the benefits given to carers have risen from some £4 million in the last year of the Labour Government in 1978 to more than £213 million this year? Is that not evidence of the importance that the Government place on the role of carers in the forthcoming programme for care in the community?

Mr. Yeo

My hon. Friend, who is known for his expertise in the matter, is absolutely right. That level is likely to continue rising. It shows, in a practical way, exactly how the Government are determined to give carers the support that they need.