An MSP has said that we owe our carers “a massive debt of gratitude.”
Speaking during a debate to mark Carers Week 2015, Joan McAlpine, who co-convenes the Parliament’s Cross Party Group on Carers, also said she was proud of the SNP government’s work on behalf of Scotland’s 759,000 carers, which includes a £144 million investment to date, containing £14 million for voluntary sector short breaks.
The Carers Bill currently making its way through the Scottish Parliament will enshrine carers’ rights in law for the first time.
The south of Scotland MSP used her speech to highlight some potential improvements to the Bill, such as allowing carers to take shorter respite breaks if they wish, and the need for mandatory emergency care plans, raised by Marie Curie and Enable respectively, and welcomed the Health Improvement Minister’s commitment to consider these.
Speaking after the debate she said:
“Carers play such a vital role in looking after loved ones – and we owe them a massive debt of gratitude.
“It’s great that the Carers Bill will enshrine carers’ rights in law, but all this is a work in progress and we can always do more.
“I welcome the fact that the Minister has agreed to consider carefully the points I raised.”
Following the debate, Ms McAlpine is calling on the UK Government to devolve the powers needed to support Scotland’s carers.
The Smith Commission stated that the Scottish Parliament should have “complete autonomy in determining the structure and value of the benefits at paragraph 49 or any new benefits or services which might replace them” – this includes Carers Allowance.
However, in its current form the Scotland Bill appears to restrict how the Scottish Government can support carers – by defining them as over 16 and not in full time education or employment.
In addition to this, the roll out of Personal Independence Payments will impact carers currently receiving Carers Allowance and Disability Living Allowance – with some expected not to be eligible for any support at all under the new system.
The Scottish Government is working to provide more support for carers, but harsh Tory welfare cuts threaten to undermine the good progress being made in Scotland.
Commenting, Joan said:
“The Scotland Bill in its current form falls far short of the powers Scotland needs to thrive – and fails to meet even the powers set out in the Smith Commission. It also appears to restrict how the Scottish Government can support carers – by defining them as over 16 and not in full time education or employment. This could put obstacles in the way of the Scottish Government being able to mitigate the impact of the roll out of Personal Independence Payments.
“Scotland’s carers can’t afford Tory cuts to their support – we need full powers over social security in Scotland to allow us to protect, support and empower people who need help, rather than pushing them into poverty with punitive cuts and sanctions as the Tories are continuing to do.”
The full text of the debate can be found here