HL Deb 22 May 1995 vol 564 cc795-7

2.52 p.m.

Lord Constantine of Stanmore asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is the total number of registered carers at present; what percentage of these are paid out of public funds on a regular or casual basis; and what is the total cost to public funds per annum.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Baroness Cumberlege)

My Lords, there is no nation al register of carers providing informal care for relatives and friends. We do not know how many carers receive money from public funds, but a wide range of benefits are available to them depending on their individual circumstances, including Invalid Care Allowance and Income Support.

Lord Constantine of Stanmore

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply. Is she aware —I am sure she is—of the recent BMA report which was published in February of this year which deals with carers? The report claims that 6.8 million unpaid carers are at the present moment saving the Government £33.9 billion.

Baroness Cumberlege

Yes, my Lords. We are indebted to those who take on these responsibilities for very little financial reward.

Lord Tebbit

My Lords, does my noble friend consider that it would be right if the Government had better assessments of the numbers involved and the degree to which they are saving public expenditure? Would it not also be right if something more could be done to support those carers, not least by providing training for carers, whether it is a case of those who wish to be professional carers or those who are caring for relatives within their own families? Nothing else that we do for the disabled in particular is of much use if there is not a carer to help a disabled person get out to take advantage of what is being done for him or her in the community at large.

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, the Government are considering whether we ought to have a register of informal carers. That is something that is being looked at at the moment. With regard to support for carers, we are publishing today the survey that took place of last year's activities. The number of hours of home help and home care which was provided increased by 24 per cent. The figures suggest a more intensive service in that the proportion of households receiving more than five hours per week has increased, while the proportion of households receiving a single visit or a visit of under two hours has decreased. The provision of meals at home and luncheon clubs has also increased, as have places provided at day centres. All these activities help carers. My noble friend has made a good point on training, and that is certainly something that we shall consider.

Baroness Robson of Kiddington

My Lords, one of the most important things for carers is the; availability of respite care so that they can have some time off. To what extent have the possibilities of obtaining respite care increased in the past few years?

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, our surveys show that local authorities are providing more respite care. That is not surprising because last year we invested £20 million in this particular service, and this year the sum has gone up to £30 million.

Baroness Seear

My Lords, will the noble Baroness tell us what progress has been made in making money available to carers so that they can buy the services they want rather than depending on local authorities to provide them, and in that way obtain more precisely what they individually need?

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, direct payments to carers is a subject that has been discussed in a White Paper. It is certainly something that the Government support, and it is a measure that we shall be introducing in due course.

Baroness Jay of Paddington

My Lords, is the Minister aware that I am slightly surprised she has not mentioned the Carers (Recognition and Services), Bill, which was given a Second Reading in your Lordships' House last week? That was a Private Member's Bill introduced in another place by my honourable friend Mr. Malcolm Wicks. I am glad to say that the Government have given a great deal of support to this Labour Party oriented policy.

Baroness Cumberlege

My Lords, the noble Baroness and I are at one on this.