Page last updated at 09:33 GMT, Monday, 8 March 2010

Carer respite funding 'spent elsewhere' say charities

Hands touching
Millions of pounds was allocated to offer respite to carers

Millions of pounds intended to fund respite breaks for voluntary carers in England has been spent on other areas of the NHS, according to two charities.

The government announced in 2008 that it was doubling money set aside to allow long-term carers some time off - £50m this year and £100m next year.

The Crossroads Care and Princess Royal Trust for Carers say only 23% of this year's cash is being spent on carers.

NHS Trust representatives say money was moved to best meet local needs.

The two charities say the problem is that the money was never ring-fenced by the government and simply added to existing health budgets.

Some trusts have no idea how much money they received towards respite breaks, the charities claim.

'Different priorities'

Gordon Conochie, of the Princess Royal Trust for Carers, accused primary care trusts of failing to respond to local needs because of a lack of "transparency and accountability".

"Primary care trusts aren't telling local people what they're using the money for, they're not actually consulting with carers' organisations or carers locally," he said.

"And in our report we found a quarter of them hadn't even spoken to a local authority about actually publishing a joint plan with them."

The charities based their analysis on responses to Freedom of Information requests from 100 primary care trusts.

David Stout, director of the Primary Care Trust Network, said trusts had planned to meet carers' needs but were also faced with "many, many different priorities".

"So inevitably there's a need to meet needs as best you can in your local area."

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