HC Deb 17 March 2003 vol 401 cc626-7
19. Mr. David Cameron (Witney)

What recent representations he has received on the level of benefits paid to carers; and if he will make a statement. [102963]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Maria Eagle)

There have been no recent representations from national organisations, but there have been 16 written representations about the level of invalid care allowance, which is to be renamed the carer's allowance in April, from MPs writing on behalf of their constituents in the past six months, although to my knowledge, they do not include the hon. Gentleman. We have already made substantial changes to carers' benefit and we are in the final stages of implementing the carer's package, which improves financial support for carers by an estimated £500 million over three years.

Mr. Cameron

May I thank the Minister for that response? I should also declare an interest£I forgot when I tabled the question that I am a recipient of carers' benefit.

Does the Minister agree that as important as the level of benefit is the very poor take-up that we still have in this country and the desperate need for respite care? Is she aware that almost all the carers who come to my surgery are investigating or making points about respite care and its availability? Given that the Government are now providing more money to local authorities in terms of carers' grants, which I welcome, is it not now time for some mandatory requirements for respite care for those who are looking after elderly relatives or disabled children?

Maria Eagle

The hon. Gentleman is right that respite care can be an important part of keeping carers going and I shall certainly pass on his remarks and suggestions to the Minister of State, Department of Health, my hon. Friend the Member for Redditch (Jacqui Smith), who has responsibility for that.

In respect of numbers, it is estimated that at the outturn of this year some 421,000 people are in receipt of ICA, which is an increase over the past year resulting from our extension of eligibility for ICA to those who are over 65 years old.