COLUMN: Dr Dan Poulter MP - ‘Hard work of UK’s unpaid carers is indispensable’
By the end of this parliament we will have a million more people over 70, one third of them living alone.
There are 6.5 million people in the United Kingdom who provide unpaid care for an older, sick or disabled loved one, and millions more who will have a caring role in the future. Taking care of older relatives and friends will need to become part of all our lives.
As a health minister, I was responsible for bringing the Care Act 2014 through Parliament, which introduced the need for integration of health and social care services, new rights and entitlements for carers and the people they care for, and putting into law for the first time over-arching principles of well-being and personalisation.
This Parliament, I am pleased to have been appointed Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Carers, the group which aims to promote awareness, knowledge and understanding of the needs and invaluable work of unpaid carers.
The All-Party Parliamentary Group works on a cross-party basis and I will join colleagues of all parties to seek improvements to legislation for carers and discuss what more can be done across the NHS, social care, employment policy and the social security system to improve the lives of carers who save the UK £119 billion each year through support of relatives and friends.
We are facing challenges in Suffolk and the UK in terms of properly caring for our growing ageing population, but we are fortunate enough to have excellent examples of community groups leading the way providing the necessary care for vulnerable people.
For example, I take a great interest in the work of Suffolk Family Carers, a charity who focus on the needs and priorities of family carers and minimise their difficulties as well as raise awareness of family carers in Suffolk.
I joined them recently to discuss what more I can do to support their needs and to see the work of the art and craft group of carers who had come together to make gifts to help raise money for charity.
I am now looking forward to being able to take voices like theirs, and many others in Suffolk, to Parliament through my role on the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Carers.
I have also several times presented certificates and awards to the hard working and dedicated volunteers of Wickham Market Carers, a vital community support group which offers information, support and most importantly much-needed respite care for unpaid carers who adapt their lives to look after a relative or friend.
Without these indispensable carers, we are facing the growing social problem of isolation of elderly people who live alone and have nobody to talk to. We as a society have a moral obligation to help them and a combined community effort of care can relieve their loneliness, even if it is just for an hour.
* Conservative Party member Dr Dan Poulter is the MP for Central Suffolk and North Ipswich.
For more information about Dr Dan and his work, please pay a visit to www.drdanielpoulter.com