HC Deb 05 May 2000 vol 349 cc445-6
Mr. Huw Edwards (Monmouth)

I beg to move amendment No. 36, in page 2, line 27, after 'services', insert— 'in lieu of the care'. Clause 3 makes provision for the issuing of vouchers for the taking of short-term breaks. All hon. Members will recognise the importance of respite care and that the provision of vouchers is one of the Bill's fundamental principles. I introduced a ten-minute Bill on respite care—short-term breaks is now the preferred term—a couple of years ago.

It is important to clarify the relationship between carers and the cared-for person. The amendment is necessary to ensure that there is no change in that relationship. Carers care out of duty and love. As drafted, the clause suggests that carers provide "services". We would normally expect such services to be provided under a contractual relationship by an outside body, such as a local authority, the health service or a voluntary organisation. It is slightly problematic to regard the relationship between the carer and the cared-for person as one in which the carer provides services.

The amendment would formalise the relationship, which is essentially based on love and duty. Any of us who have known the relationship—I well recall my mother having to care for her elderly mother for several years—know that carers are not providing direct services but serving out of love and duty.

The term "services" implies that there might be entitlements and that there will be standards and a claim on the carer, which I am sure hon. Members would regard as inappropriate. I therefore ask the House to accept the amendment in order to ensure the maintenance of the status quo in the relationship between the carer and the cared-for person. I believe that the Government will agree that the amendment is in the spirit of the Bill, and I hope that my hon. Friend the Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) is able to accept to it.

Mr. Burstow

I added my name to the amendment for many of the reasons that the hon. Member for Monmouth (Mr. Edwards) has just described. When we are attempting to support family and caring relationships, we should not try to formalise them under service provision. The Bill poses such a danger. The hon. Gentleman is right to have highlighted that by tabling the amendment. I hope that in response to the debate, we shall hear how such a downside could be avoided.

We are about recognising and valuing carers, and ensuring that their needs are assessed at an early opportunity and that they receive the services that they need to be able to fulfil the caring responsibility that they have taken on. To turn the relationship into a contractual one is entirely wrong and we should attempt to avoid the Bill giving that signal. I hope that the hon. Member for Stalybridge and Hyde (Mr. Pendry) can reassure us on that. If the amendment will not achieve our aim, I hope that something will be done at a later stage to give effect to our intention.

Mr. Pendry

I am grateful to hon. Members for their suggestion. We had a Conservative-Labour alliance earlier and now there is a Lib-Lab alliance—perhaps that is the way forward.

I am grateful for this helpful amendment. It serves to highlight the distinction between the support that informal carers provide and the sort of services provided by health and social services and other service providers. Service providers must see carers as partners in the provision of help to the persons needing support and must involve them as partners. However, as the amendment suggests, it would be unhelpful to view the help provided by informal carers in exactly the same light as services provided formally by statutory or voluntary providers.

Most caring is founded on close personal relationships. Sensitive and effective support for the people who choose to be carers involves understanding the unique impact of each carer on his or her caring role, as well as acknowledging the vast contribution that carers make to society as a whole.

Both contributions on the amendment were short. I shall be short in saying that I hope that the House will accept the amendment.

Amendment agreed to.

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