The Government has confirmed that it will enact new legislation to give carers in England legal rights for the first time.
It is estimated that some 1.25 million people in the UK spend at least 50 hours per week caring for a family member.
The proposals are due to be published this month after recommendations from the Law Commission. It is thought that the new law will oblige local authorities to look after carers, by providing support, education and training and respite care options to allow them a break.
The Care Services Minister is Paul Burstow.
“Carers make big sacrifices, in undertaking the support of a family member they often give up their health and their wealth as part of this. Many feel the need to quit work as a consequence of it as well,” he told BBC Radio 4.
At present, carers receive support from local authorities based on means testing, and the standard of support is varied depending on the individual local authorities and the budgets available for staff and services.
It is hoped that enacting legislation will create national minimum standards for carer support and will ensure that the million or more carers in England get proper training and a regular break.
What we’re trying to do is make sure in future that neither the NHS or local councils overlook the family members who are providing the backbone of care and support in our country,” Mr Burstow told the BBC.
It is thought that changing the law could prove to be expensive, however, with some estimates putting the cost of the law at £1.7bn, rising to £3.6bn as the English population gets older.
The Department of Health issued a statement on the matter.
“The way that carers are treated, and the support they receive, will be central to the Government’s plans to reform the social care system that will be published in a White Paper soon,” said a spokesperson.
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