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This Briefing has been prepared in advance of the debate due to take place in the House of Lords on the motion moved by Baroness Redfern (Conservative) “that this House takes note of the support available to carers and the Carers Action Plan 2018–20: Supporting Carers Today”. This Briefing focuses on support for carers who provide unpaid care to family members, friends, neighbours or others, often because of long-term physical or mental ill health or disability, or care needs related to old age. This Briefing does not cover recent government policy on social care. However, the Government has stated it will be publishing a green paper on social care funding later this year, and that it is undertaking a parallel programme of work examining issues specific to working-age adults with care needs.

In 2016, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) commissioned a study of the data from the Family Resources Survey 2011/12–2013/14. Its study found that approximately 5.3 million people in the United Kingdom provide unpaid care to someone with a disability or health condition. The JRF also noted that, of the 5.3 million unpaid carers, approximately 4.1 million were of working-age. According to the UK’s national membership charity for carers, Carers UK, the contribution of family and friends who care is estimated to be worth £132 billion per year to the economy.

Currently, carers are often entitled to the carer’s allowance and to support from local authorities. However, considering ways to support carers further, the Government recently published the Carers Action Plan 2018–20: Supporting Carers Today. The action plan is structured around five themes: services and systems that work for carers; employment and financial wellbeing; supporting young carers; recognising and supporting carers in the wider community and society; and building research and evidence to improve outcomes for carers. Within these themes, the Government has outlined actions it has taken or is planning to take. For example, in relation to improving health professionals’ awareness and identification of carers, the action plan noted that NHS England is currently working with the Care Quality Commission to develop quality standards for carer-friendly general practitioner surgeries. 

The response to the publication of the Government’s action plan was largely positive. However, organisations, such as Carers Trust, were disappointed that further financial support for carers was not included. The Labour Party also criticised aspects of the Government’s action plan.

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