Carers' Week, 18th-24th June
Posted by Kate Green, MP for Stretford and Urmston, at 10:09, Mon 25 June 2012:
This week is Carers’ week, and it’s an important opportunity for me to acknowledge the work done by carers in Trafford.
Since my election to parliament, I’ve met many carers in the constituency, and I know what a great job they do. I’m looking forward to joining carers this Saturday at Old Trafford to celebrate their contribution.
Across the country, unpaid carers save the public purse well over £100 billion a year, so we have a lot to be grateful to them for. But this week, a survey revealed that two in five unpaid carers are sacrificing their own health by putting off medical treatment to care for an ill, frail or disabled loved one.
The survey, completed by 3,400 carers, also showed that caring had a negative impact on 83 per cent of carers’ physical health, with 36 per cent of carers sustaining a physical injury (such as back pain) through caring. A further 87 per cent said caring for a family member or friend has had a negative impact on their mental health. And 64 per cent carers blamed their poor health on a lack of practical support, and 50 per cent on not enough financial support.
So I’m very pleased that my parliamentary colleague and neighbour Barbara Keeley, MP for Worsley and Eccles South, this week introduced a bill in parliament which would require the NHS and other health bodies to identify and properly support carers, and would put a requirement on schools, colleges and local authorities to provide support for young carers. In Trafford, we’ve already seen some excellent services for carers run from our wonderful Carers Centre, and we’re also lucky to have services to support Young Carers in the borough.
We ought to do all we can to support those caring for friends and family. I’ll certainly be supporting Barbara’s bill.
This week also saw the launch of homeless charity St Mungo's campaign to tackle women’s homelessness, Rebuilding Shattered Lives. I was very pleased to attend and speak at the launch of this campaign, and to visit one of their hostels.
Homelessness is up by 16% in 2012, and the picture’s even worse for women. Government cuts to housing benefit are beginning to cause serious problems. In Trafford, where we know rents are high, people can’t easily move to cheaper accommodation in the borough. Some face being forced to move away from their neighbourhood, friends and support networks, or getting into arrears on the rent. I’ve already had cases like this in my constituency surgery, and I know this is also true for some of my Labour councillor colleagues.
The situation’s set to become even tougher when the government’s new rules mean that almost all housing benefit that’s currently paid direct to landlords is paid to tenants instead.
Currently the vast majority of tenants in Trafford Hosing Trust, Partington Housing Association and other housing association properties in the borough have the rent paid straight to the landlord. It makes budgeting easier for the tenant, and it gives the housing association security of income – essential if they’re to raise capital to build more homes.
So this proposal from the government makes no sense when we desperately need more housing.
But there isn’t a lot of logic in the government’s housing policy. Last week, I participated in a debate in which I asked Grant Shapps, the housing minister, why the government was making changes to housing benefit that would force people to move out of the borough they live in, yet at the same time, he’s telling local authorities they can’t transfer tenants to other local authorities. And why isn’t the government focusing on the real problem with the housing benefit bill – that rents are too high in the first place. It’s not benefits recipients (many of whom are pensioners or are actually in work) who are ripping off the system, it’s landlords who are in some cases charging sky-high rents for substandard and suitable properties.
All the political parties agree we need more affordable homes. But the most recent figures show new housebuilding starts are down 11% - and that certainly doesn’t make sense.
Labours calling for a one-off repeat of the bankers’ bonus tax to be used to fund a new housebuilding programme, and create jobs in the construction industry for unemployed young people. That will sound like a sensible policy to the many young people in Trafford, worried about getting their first job, or wanting to move into their own home.