New measures demanded to identify carers

New measures are needed to help identify people caring for their friends and relatives, an MP demanded today.

Labour’s Barbara Keeley (Worsley and Eccles S) called for more support from health authorities, GPs and social services to support the increasing number of carers who devote more than 50 hours a week to looking after others.

Carole Cochrane, chief executive of The Princess Royal Trust for Carers, said: “We fully support the Bill.

“Without early identification and support, carers can suffer physical and mental breakdowns.

“This can result in the original patient requiring emergency hospital admission or expensive residential care and the carer becoming a patient as well. As a result, many families are collapsing under the strain. GPs are crucial in helping to identify carers and offering them support.
“We carried out research in May 2010 and found that over two-thirds of young carers are bullied at school and 39% said that none of their teachers are even aware of their caring role.

“Sadly, without the right support, many young carers will under-achieve or drop out of school altogether, which has a long and enduring impact on their future prospects. Again, identification is crucial.

“The new coalition Government has talked about the need to support Britain’s army of six million adult and young carers, and we are urging them to honour the pledges they made during the election and back this Bill.”

This group of carers were often more likely to suffer ill-health themselves, and a growing number of carers were children, many of whom did not tell their teachers of the extra pressures they faced caring for a parent or sibling, she told MPs.

Introducing her Carers (Identification and Support) Bill Ms Keeley said: “We have a population that is living longer and living more often with dementia, illness or a long-term condition.

“It has become clear that more and more families are stepping in to provide full-time and high levels of care.”

The Bill, which has cross-party backing from MPs, would require GPs and PCTs to identify carers and direct them to appropriate support organisations.

It would also require schools to have written policies in place to support young carers, who were often treated as truants for taking time off, she claimed.

The Bill was given an unopposed first reading, but stands little chance of becoming law without Government backing.