HC Deb 08 February 1999 vol 325 cc60-1W
Mr. Russell Brown

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what progress has been made with the Government's National Strategy for Carers. [70302]

Mr. Dewar

The Government's National Strategy for Carers is being published today. It describes what the Government have done so far to support carers and how we can improve the quality of life for the many carers in our society by ensuring that the needs are identified and met. It focuses on how carers can be informed, involved and empowered, and how employers can help carers combine paid work with their caring responsibilities. It sets out what carers should be entitled to expect from service providers and how they can be helped by services in the neighbourhood in which they live. The strategy details proposals to support young carers.

The report is the result of a consultative process, involving a large number of Government departments, carers organisations, individual carers, representatives of the National Health Service and local authorities, other voluntary organisations which help to support carers and the business sector.

The National Health Service and local authorities need to provide carers with information about services which can support them in their caring role. They also need to involve carers in the planning and provision of services so that carers' needs are met better than they have been in the past.

Local authorities in Scotland have been allocated over £1 billion for social work this year, of which £5.1 million is specifically to provide respite and assist carers. Authorities will have an additional £51.3 million in 1999–2000 to meet their social work responsibilities and are expected to use some of these resources to improve services to carers; £5 million will be available to local authorities implementing the recommendations of the Action Plan to modernise community care, a key element of which is supporting carers.

The Government will also be consulting on proposals that time spent caring will entitles carers to a second pension (by 2050, up to an extra £50 per week in today's terms).

We intend to trial a new question on carers for the 2001 Census. This should provide better information about the distribution of carers between local authority ares and on the numbers of young carers and those from minority ethnic groups.

Consideration will be given to extending New Deal to help carers return to work and special help for disabled children, technology to help carers and housing and transport.

Legislation reducing council tax for disabled people will be introduced. The Government also intend to introduce legislation in England to allow local authorities to address carers' needs more directly than is possible at present, as the Minister of State, Home Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Brent, South (Mr. Boateng), has announced today. We would hope such legislation will be introduced in Scotland.

From 1 July 1999, this will be a matter for the Scottish Parliament.

It is our intention to continue work to support carers and to monitor implementation of these new initiatives.