Photo: Woman helping dress her husband who has MS

The Carers action plan unpacked

Last week, the Government released its Carers action plan for England. But what is it? And what does it mean for carers in the MS community?

Wasn’t it meant to be a Carers strategy?

Two years ago many of you told us about your experiences and views on carers’ support. We collected it to feed into the Government’s development of a new Carers strategy, a long-term plan to support carers in England.

Carers from across England answered questions to feed into the strategy. But then a new Government was elected and they changed their plans. They replaced the Carers strategy, looking at plans to improve carers’ support in the long-term, with a Carers action plan.

A plan for the next two years

The plan now only looks at improving support for carers in England over the next two years. It sets out the Government’s commitments and actions and is split into five themes:

  1. Services and systems that work for carers
  2. Employment and financial wellbeing
  3. Supporting young carers
  4. Recognising and supporting carers in the wider community and society
  5. Building research and evidence to improve outcomes for carers

You can read more about the plan on the Gov.UK website.

What we’re happy about

The plan committed to actions around improving employment opportunities for carers, which should help more carers to work and stay in work while caring. It also set out how it will improve recognition of carers. And how the Government will raise awareness of carers’ needs with health and care professionals.

These are some of the big issues you told us you wanted to be addressed when you responded to our Carers strategy survey, so it’s good to see the Government recognising them.

What’s missing

While there were positives in the Carers action plan, the Government hasn’t committed to increasing financial support for carers. Carer’s Allowance is the lowest benefit of its kind, and results in many carers struggling financially when they’re caring.

The Government also didn’t commit to putting in place paid leave for carers – something that can help working carers balance their caring and work.

We’ve long been calling for increases to financial support and flexible working, so it’s disappointing to see there aren’t firm commitments to improve these issues.

This summer, the Government will set out its plans for the future of social care in a Green Paper. As part of this, they’ve promised to look at more long-term issues for carers. We’re hoping they’ll commit to increasing financial support for carers then.

This Green Paper will also need to set out how the Government plans to fund social care in the future, so carers aren’t left to pick up so much of the caring responsibility.

Support for carers

If you care for someone with MS, you might be looking for support or information. You can call our MS Helpline on 0808 800 8000 (Monday-Friday, 9am-7pm) or read our support for carers information.

And don’t forget, this week is Carers week! We’re looking into all the ways carers can stay healthy and connected. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to get involved or visit the Carers week website.