The Queen’s Speech at the State Opening of Parliament lays out the Government’s agenda for this session of Parliament. That agenda looks pretty thin and it is notable for what has been left out as much as what it contains.
The Conservative-led Government has abandoned Public Health measures which may have helped prevent alcohol abuse and prevent young people taking up smoking. Almost 1,000 young people started smoking in Salford last year and yet the Government is taking no measures in Parliament to help stop that threat to our young people’s health.
The Government has now finally introduced its Care Bill, although full details of the Bill are still being worked on. We know that the Government is preparing to set a cap of around £72,000 on social care costs. This is a much higher level than the Government’s own commission recommended. The Dilnot commission had recommended setting the cap at £35,000 and said that a cap of higher than £50,000 would not provide enough protection to stop people on lower incomes from losing their homes to pay for care.
The Government’s Care Bill also introduces a right for unpaid family carers to have their needs assessed by their local council. However council budgets for adult social care have been cut so savagely due to Government cuts that it is difficult to see how hard-pressed councils will be able to extend more services to carers.
A recent national survey by Carers UK has shown that a third of family carers who are caring for more than 35 hours a week receive no practical support with caring. Many family carers give up their work or have to cut their working hours in order to care.
We are fortunate to have Salford Carers Centre working with our local GPs and primary care teams on identifying carers and helping them to find support. We also have a young carers project working in our schools to support young carers. I will continue to campaign to ensure that Government brings in policies that improve the lives of carers, not make it harder for them.