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Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I cannot answer that question. I would be rather surprised if records have been kept over the years of all recommendations that might have been made for life peerages. I think it is exceedingly unlikely but I shall certainly check up on that and let the noble Baroness know.
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I am grateful for the noble Lord's comments on what I believe is an important, major change in emphasis which has been warmly welcomed by carers' associations. Like him, I pay tribute to the millions of our fellow citizens who do so much to support those people who receive care from them.
On the question of resources, substantial resources are being made available which will help us to provide new money for practical policies to support carers and to make sure they can have a break from caring. It is important to recognise the role of new legislation to allow authorities to address carers' needs directly, not simply the needs of the person who is receiving care. The Prime Minister made it absolutely clear when he launched the strategy that it is just a start. We believe it is a substantial and important start on which we will all have to build.
Lord Higgins: My Lords, with regard to the position of a carer looking after a sick husband, who now finds that if he dies after 6th April next year the pensions he expected will be halved, can the noble Baroness say whether the Government have any plans to compensate or help such people if they have taken mistaken financial decisions as a result of not being informed of the true position by the Department of Social Security?
Lord Sheppard of Liverpool: My Lords, is my noble friend aware that there are precedents from long ago of paying for carers? Carers existed long before there were hospitals or social workers. In the 17th century, substantial grants were made frequently from the poor law to those who cared for their own parents, and to those who cared for their own children in a good number of instances. Does my noble friend agree that where mothers wish to look after their own children, that is preferable to paying childminders or nannies? Do the Government have practical plans to encourage those mothers?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, the contribution of those who care for others--whether they are children they are bringing up, disabled children, the elderly, people who are sick, or the long-term sick--is
Lord Addington: My Lords, does not the Minister agree that, by forcing people--particularly those on invalid care allowance--to attend a compulsory interview to discuss full-time work, the Government are giving out the wrong signal that carers who in effect give their lives towards looking after somebody else are not doing a full-time job?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, I do not think it is the wrong signal. Interviewing those who are not working enables them to understand what support would be available if they chose to work and what the options are. That is tremendously important. We are not talking about compulsion, about people having to go out to work, but about making sure that people are aware of the choices available. For some people the choice of being able to obtain financial security and the self-respect that, on occasions, can come from going out to work is a very important choice.
Lord Laming: My Lords, as this welcome policy initiative for the support of carers unfolds, can the Minister give an assurance that special attention will be paid to the needs of those families who care for severely disabled children, often for very many years, and to the needs of young carers who support their parents, often before they go to school and on their return? Will their needs receive particular attention?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, the needs of young carers were particularly highlighted in the strategy. They have perhaps not been acknowledged sufficiently in the past. That is why we are very anxious that a member of staff should have a responsibility for addressing the needs of children who combine being children with being carers. The noble Lord also mentioned children who are long-term sick, and particularly those who have life-threatening diseases. I hope that the new children's nursing teams that are being established in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, and which are currently being piloted, will provide tremendous support for those families.
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, as I understand it, there has never been a government estimate of the exact economic contribution made by carers. The figure of £34 billion has been estimated by some groups outside government. Obviously it is a very difficult figure to quantify--no one can be certain about it--but none of us should underestimate the enormous role that carers
Lord Hylton: My Lords, I entirely agree with the noble Baroness about carers knowing their options. Does she accept that care in the home will almost always be cheaper and more cost effective than care in an institution? Will the Government therefore look very carefully at pension credits in respect of full-time carers?
Baroness Hayman: My Lords, the pension needs of full-time carers has to be addressed; that is why we are looking in terms of the second pension. We need to make sure that people who have not made contributions because they have taken time off work to care for someone will be allowed credits for that. As to the cost of caring in an institution or in someone's own home, one cannot always say that it goes one way or the other; it depends very much on the quality of care provided in the institution and the quality of care provided at home. I accept that many people would prefer to have care in their own home. Allowing someone to stay at home while their carer has a break, rather than having to go into an institution for respite care, is exactly the sort of flexibility that we are trying to bring in and allow under the terms of the strategy.
Lord Geraint: My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her reply. Does she agree that it is very difficult for Members of your Lordships' House, when they quite often visit the third world, to justify our agricultural policy in Britain and in the western world, where we pay producers for not producing food which is badly needed in other parts of the world? Will the noble Baroness consider putting new proposals to our European partners to see what can be done to help to overcome this humanitarian problem that exists in the third world?
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