Tuesday, August 25, 1998 Published at 18:51 GMT 19:51 UK
Government promises to listen to carers
Thousands of people care for loved ones full time
The government has promised that the first-ever national strategy for Britain's 6 million carers will meet the needs that carers themselves say are most important.
The strategy will be focused on four areas: carers' health needs, respite care, employment and community support.
Junior Health Minister Paul Boateng has set up four working groups to look at each of the issues.
Carers' organisations and carers themselves have also been urged to come forward with ideas of best practice.
It is estimated that nearly one million people care for a loved one for more than eight hours a day.
The new strategy was announced by the Prime Minister Tony Blair in June, and its development will be masterminded by Mr Boateng.
Announcing the scope and terms of reference of the strategy, Mr Boateng said: "Carers have a wide range of needs - as diverse as those of the people they care for.
"Their work is vital and has often gone unrecognised. This Government will ensure their concerns are listened to.
"Our National Carers' Strategy will take their needs into account by drawing together the work of a large number of Government departments, statutory and voluntary organisations."
Mr Boateng said the strategy would assess whether any of the key needs of carers have been overlooked, clarify the Government's objectives for them and set out future action by the Government.
A report will be sent to the Prime Minister by January 1999.
David Butler, chief executive of the Princess Royal Trust for Carers, said he was delighted that the government was moving so fast to meet carers' needs.
Mr Butler said: "I am particularly pleased the government is interested in listening to what carers have to say about their own experiences.
"Only if you listen to them and take note of what they say will you get any coherent and sensible policies."
The trust is to publish its own research into carers' attitudes.
Mr Butler said: "Carers' needs themselves are comparatively modest, but there are two things above all others that they need: access to information about where to go for help and someone who is sympathetic and understands what they are doing to listen to them.
"Many carers get very isolated and stressed, and can get cut off from normal social contact."