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Last Updated: Wednesday, 21 February 2007, 16:03 GMT
33m carer-support plan unveiled
The initiative is aimed at relieving the burden on carers
New measures aimed at supporting people in England helping elderly or disabled relatives have been unveiled.

Some 25m of a 33m budget will go to local authorities to fund emergency respite care for people who need a break from the demands of their role.

The government said the New Deal for Carers would relieve the burden on carers if they were sick or had other family responsibilities.

Charities estimate there are about six million people caring in the UK.

They also estimate that some 2.2 million either start or stop responsibilities each year.

A national helpline for carers will also be created as part of the scheme.

The New Deal for Careers will also include the development of an expert carers programme.

'Quality of life'

Ministers say this will provide training and support in areas carers have called for help with, such as information about their legal rights and training in handling.

Ivan Lewis, minister for care services, said the funding builds on an annual grant given to local authorities since 1999.

Carers often put their own health at risk because of concern about what will happen to the person they care for
Imelda Redmond, Carers UK

"This army of carers do not want to give away their family responsibilities," he said.

"Equally, they want government and local services on their side ensuring the necessary care and support is available to maintain their family's quality of life."

He said the government would not be supporting a private members bill that wanted local authorities to provide short breaks for families of carers of disabled children because it did not address costs.

But he pledged to bring forward specific proposals on the issue in the next few months.

John Wallington, from Leicestershire, is a carer for his wife who suffers mental health problems.

He told the BBC: "My job as a carer is a full time job - it is 24/7, 365 days a year. It is my life.

"It is totally unpredictable as to what each day is going to be like."

The New Deal was welcomed by the charity Carers UK.

Chief executive Imelda Redmond said emergency support was "essential for carers' health and wellbeing" and said the helpline service would make more people aware of "crucial" information.

Funding pressures means its own helpline can only be run on a part-time basis.

"Carers often put their own health at risk because of concern about what will happen to the person they care for," she said.

"We estimate that 740 million of carers' benefits go unclaimed each year partly because a third of carers do not recognise themselves as a carer in the first five years of caring."

Shan Nicholas from the Princess Royal Trust for Carers said the government and local authorities now needed to ensure the resources made "a real and positive difference to carers' lives".

'Invaluable contribution'

The unveiling of the measures came as Chancellor Gordon Brown announced a national consultation with carers and voluntary organisations.

Francine Bates OBE of the Every Disabled Child Matters campaign board said respite care should not be seen as an alternative to planned, regular short breaks for carers.

She added: "The funding being announced today is welcome but will not go very far towards meeting the needs of the 100,000 families with severely disabled children who need regular breaks."

Help the Aged said the extra funding was a drop in the ocean but showed the government recognised the "invaluable contribution" carers make.

Policy manager Deborah Klee added: "What is vitally needed is better investment in planned respite care and support for carers, rather than only helping people once they get to breaking point."

TreeHouse, the national charity for autism education, said provision of emergency respite care was "simply not enough" for families looking after those with severe learning difficulties.

Children's charity NCH urged the government not to forget young carers who can face difficulties in education, relationship breakdown and stress.

One carer's reaction to the announcement

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