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TX: 25.04.05 - Carers

PRESENTER: JOHN WAITE 
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THE ATTACHED TRANSCRIPT WAS TYPED FROM A RECORDING AND NOT COPIED FROM AN ORIGINAL SCRIPT. BECAUSE OF THE RISK OF MISHEARING AND THE DIFFICULTY IN SOME CASES OF IDENTIFYING INDIVIDUAL SPEAKERS, THE BBC CANNOT VOUCH FOR ITS COMPLETE ACCURACY.

WAITE
Tomorrow our regular Tuesday Call You and Yours will be about carers and the charity Carers UK, which represents carers around the country, has put together a carers manifesto to guide whoever gets into Number 10 on May 6th and they'll be telling us about it tomorrow. But meanwhile what are the main political parties themselves promising to do for carers in their manifestos, if they get elected? Our disability affairs reporter Carolyn Atkinson has been reading those political manifestos, so what are they saying Carolyn?

ATKINSON
Well the Labour Party says it's done a lot for carers since it came to power. It points to the introduction of a new grant, which it says has funded two million breaks for carers and to the carers premium, which is paid to those on low incomes. Now if Labour win a third term it says it'll build on that work done so far, it's consulting now on giving carers the right to flexible working, rather than just relying on the goodwill of a boss. It'll make sure that councils remind and inform carers of their rights to an assessment under the Carers Act, so that their health, their leisure and their employment needs are met, not just those of the person they're caring for. And Labour's also keen to give more help to child carers by allocating 20% of the money available for carers breaks to children.

WAITE
And the Conservatives?

ATKINSON
Well their key issue is to boost respite care for carers. They say they'd increase the number of breaks that carers get but also the flexibility of those breaks. So, for example, say someone wanted Friday afternoons off rather than a one week slab of respite, they would be able to get that. Secondly, while they agree with the direct payment system, where councils give cash for people to buy their own care, they want to make it easier for disabled people to take that direct payment system up because they say that would have a knock on effect for unpaid carers and give them more flexibility. And they also may pilot a sort of middle way - a voucher system to buy care, which they say would take away some of the complications that come with the direct payment scheme.

WAITE
And the Liberal Democrats?

ATKINSON
Well they say that without the work of the UK's 5.7 million carers the NHS and the social services would be overwhelmed, so they would make every local authority have, if you like, a carers plan that would cover issues like respite care, also access to information and special help for young carers. And to help carers who also want to work they say they'd extend the current workplace laws to also cover people working at home because they say many of them are carers.

WAITE
And what about the key smaller parties, what do they promise to do for carers?

ATKINSON
Well Plaid Cymru say they want to see greater recognition of and support for carers, they'll campaign for the cash and support necessary to recruit and retain the staff needed to provide good quality social services, so that's people like social workers, occupational therapists and physios. The Greens point to their plan for a citizens income, as being the best way of helping unpaid carers. By having a guaranteed minimum level of income, which they say will be more than the current benefit levels, they say it'll empower carers to have enough money to care and also go to work or go to college. The Scottish National Party say there are hundreds of thousands of carers in Scotland who save the taxpayer millions of pounds every year. They also say that their proposed citizens income and citizens pensions will provide carers with a minimum income, thereby ensuring financial security. And they will improve the availability of respite care and give more support to young carers. And finally UKIP, the UK Independence Party, say they don't have a policy for people who care for, what they call, invalids at home, and they say they are happy with the grants given to such people.

WAITE
Carolyn Atkinson, thank you. Well what do you think should be done for the UK's six million carers? That's the subject, as I say, of our Call You and Yours tomorrow. Carers are more likely to suffer ill health, financial hardship and social isolation than the rest of the population, so if you have a view on what would help a carer's situation, perhaps you are one, perhaps one cares for you, you can call us now free of charge on 0800 044 044 or you can e-mail through our website bbc.co.uk/radio4/youandyours. But please don't forget to leave your telephone number so we can call you back.

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