Mover: Rt Hon Sir Edward Davey MP (Leader of the Liberal Democrats).
Summation: Cllr Ruth Dombey.
Motion as passed by conference
Conference believes that:
- People who care for others - whether paid or unpaid, young or old - do a remarkable and important job; they deserve our support, but are far too often forgotten and ignored.
- Millions of carers face big challenges every single day: many are living in poverty, many find it impossible to juggle work with caring responsibilities, and many struggle with their own physical and mental health; these challenges have been made even harder by the COVID-19 pandemic.
- As this pandemic has reminded everyone, caring for people's health doesn't stop at the hospital exit or the GP's surgery door; we can only truly improve the NHS if we properly support carers.
- Throughout this pandemic, Ministers have let carers down and shown that they are just an afterthought for the Government - whether it's about supporting them financially, enabling them to visit their loved ones in care homes, or vaccinating them against COVID-19.
- We must do far more to support our wonderful carers; the Liberal Democrats must stand up for carers and lead the way to a more caring society as we emerge from this pandemic.
- Supporting carers is a vital part of building a fairer society, championing social justice and achieving gender equality.
- Access to education and employment are vital in helping to lift people out of poverty and deprivation and that current lack of support for Carers and welfare benefits rules actively prevents this.
- It is essential that widespread reforms are enacted to better protect and support Carers and those they care for and for the benefit of society.
Conference notes that:
- Carers UK estimates that there are 11.5 million people across the UK who give unpaid support to someone who is elderly, seriously ill or disabled; it estimates that, by doing so, unpaid carers are saving the Government £193 billion a year.
- Most unpaid carers are having to spend more time looking after loved ones during the pandemic; most haven't been able to take a single break since it started; most are simply exhausted.
- Millions of people juggle work with unpaid caring responsibilities, and this can be hard: every day, an estimated 640 people give up paid work altogether in order to care.
- According to a survey by the Disability Law Service, 52% of carers who apply for flexible working have their applications refused.
- The Government plans to introduce one week of 'Carer's Leave' a year, but is proposing that it be unpaid.
- 900,000 full-time unpaid carers - most of them women - rely on Carer's Allowance, which at only £67.25 a week is the lowest benefit of its kind.
- Many carers are currently excluded from receiving Carer's Allowance, including:
- Carers in full-time education or studying for 21 hours or more a week.
- Carers earning more than £128 a week - less than 15 hours a week on the National Living Wage.
- Carers who spend less than 35 hours per week on their caring responsibilities.
- Thousands of carers are facing extreme financial hardship: a recent survey by Carers UK found that more than a third of those on Carer's Allowance are struggling to make ends meet; many have been struggling for months, often relying on foodbanks to feed themselves and the people they care for.
- In response to the outbreak of the pandemic, the Government increased the Universal Credit standard allowance and the Working Tax Credit basic element by £20 a week above the planned uprating in April 2020, but Conservative Ministers have refused to increase Carer's Allowance.
- Liberal Democrats successfully campaigned alongside carers and carers organisations to add unpaid carers to the priority list for vaccination against COVID-19.
- Many carers face the prospect of the death of the person whom they are caring for: even more so during the pandemic.
- 63% of carers also have a Disability or long term health condition themselves – sometimes as a result of their caring responsibilities. The most recent statistics available (2010) showed 27% of unpaid carers were claiming Disability Living Allowance in their own right.
- In June 2020 it was found that at least an additional 4.5m people have had to take on caring responsibilities due to the pandemic.
- In 2019 it was found that 51% of carers provide at least 50 hours of care per week.
- Caring is often not a 1:1 relationship – approximately 10% of carers care for more than one person and a significant number of disabled people have more than one unpaid carer – situations the current rules on carer’s allowance fail to consider.
Conference reaffirms the Liberal Democrat commitments to:
- Introduce a statutory guarantee of regular respite breaks for unpaid carers.
- Make flexible working a 'day one' right: flexible working should be open to anyone from when they start a job, with employers required to advertise jobs accordingly, unless there are significant business reasons why that is not possible.
- Introduce a package of carer benefits including free leisure centre access and self-referral to socially prescribed activities and courses, as well as free bus travel for young carers and young adult carers.
- Lift the ban on carers in full-time education receiving Carer's Allowance.
Conference further calls on the Government to support unpaid carers by:
- Providing emergency funding for respite care so that carers can take breaks; this should replace the care provided by the carer on a 1:1 basis without any requirement for the disabled person to go into a respite care centre (unless they want to) or accept a reduction in care hours.
- Introducing paid Carer's Leave.
- Making caring a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.
- Requiring employers to make reasonable adjustments to enable employees with caring responsibilities to provide that care.
- Raising Carer's Allowance by £20 a week.
- Increasing the Carer Element of Universal Credit by £20 a week, so carers' other benefits are not reduced as a result.
- Increasing the Carer Premium and Carer Addition by £20 a week as well, and providing an equivalent payment to carers who are entitled to Carer's Allowance but not receiving it, so older carers on low incomes also benefit.
- Raising the amount carers can earn before losing Carer's Allowance from £128 to £160 a week, introduce tapering off after this point so that unpaid carers are not subject to a cliff edge removal of benefits when they try to move into employment, and reducing the number of hours' care per week required to qualify for it.
- Providing additional funding to local authorities and relevant leisure providers to enable them to provide a package of carer benefits including access to training and support as required e.g. manual handling, first aid, dementia care and understanding their rights as a carer.
- Making receipt of Carer’s Allowance an eligibility criterion for the Government’s Funeral Expenses Payment.
- A commitment to move towards at least 80% of referrals to Mental Health and Occupational Therapy services to be fulfilled within 8 weeks and 100% within 16 weeks.
- Further reforming claimant rules on carers allowance to allow people to combine the hours they care for different people in a claim and to allow for multiple people to claim Carer’s Allowance for the same person where they all meet entitlement rules.
Applicability: Federal; except a) (lines 63-64), c) (lines 69-72), 1. (lines 75-76) and 9. (lines 92-93), which are England only.