Unpaid Carers Could Decide Election 2011

This year’s elections could be decided by the votes of Scotland’s 657,000 unpaid carers – and that’s why it’s important that political parties and candidates make sure support for carers is a key part of their pre-election promises.

That’s the message from Scotland’s national carer organisations as they re-launch their election manifesto on Monday 4 April, and political parties move into election mode.

Scotland’s Carers Manifesto demands that unpaid carers have the right to support in their caring role, regular breaks and to have a life outside of caring. And for the estimated 100,000 plus young carers, that they have the same life chances as other children and teenagers.

As boundary changes take effect for 2011’s Scottish Parliamentary elections, a number of seats are up for grabs, including Glasgow Southside, Eastwood, Aberdeen Central and Cunningham North. In these seats, unpaid carers votes are critical. How candidates respond to the challenges faced by the 657,000 individuals who provide practical, physical and emotional support to family members, unpaid, could make all the difference.

In Glasgow Southside where the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, Nicola Sturgeon is standing, the result is in the balance and carers represent almost 7,000 votes. Move across the city to the new constituency of Eastwood, and MSP Ken Macintosh, until recently the Shadow Labour spokesperson for schools, has a battle ahead to overturn a notional Conservative majority of nearly 3,500 votes. Carers in Eastwood could swing the result, with more than 7,000 votes again up for grabs.

Brenda cares for her sons who are on the autistic spectrum and also has a caring role for her husband.

Brenda says: “It’s important the parties come up with clear commitments which will convince me to vote for them. Cutbacks at local level put more pressure on carers and their families e.g. cutbacks in specialist services for people with autism, cutbacks in projects such as after school care, homework clubs as well as a lack of real help for disabled children and young people to make the transition into adulthood.

“The political parties need to take account of what carers are saying. Cuts to the very support we need such as Carers’ Centres and young carers’ services will just add to the pressure that families like mine face day to day. I would say to all the candidates and to whoever wins this election; work with carers – we are part of the solution to the problems this country is facing. We have so much to offer.”

The national carer organisations’ campaign brings together different organisations to ensure that the challenges that unpaid carers and young carers face are a key election issue. Speaking on behalf of the group, Florence Burke, Director for The Princess Royal Trust for Carers, said: “Scotland’s carers – carers like Brenda – are a national resource and their contribution to society saves the public purse more than £7.6 billion a year.

“Without carers, statutory services would grind to a halt. Every political party must acknowledge and respond to this contribution and continue to bring about change which supports carers more effectively. 

“In relaunching the Scottish Carers’ Manifesto again today, we are bringing a clear message from unpaid carers to candidates across the country. Ensure your campaign takes account of carers’ needs and gives firm commitments to supporting carers and those they care for. It’s time to move from talking to action.

“Our campaign over the coming weeks will also encourage carers to get out and vote – carers’ votes will definitely count in constituencies the length and breadth of Scotland.”

Fiona Collie from Carers Scotland added: “Carers Scotland echoes the sentiments of The Princess Royal Trust for Carers and the other national carer organisations. Politicians and parties cannot afford to ignore the needs of carers in this election as their votes will be crucial in deciding its outcome. Every party must recognise that carers are the frontline service and without them care at home for sick, frail and disabled people in Scotland would not be possible.”

Claire Cairns of the Coalition of Carers in Scotland added a valid point about the benefits of support for carers: “Investing in services which support carers makes good financial sense. Without the unpaid support of family members more people would be admitted to hospital and would end up in permanent residential care. 

“All the political parties have warm words to say about carers and the contribution they make. We need to see these warm words translated into a commitment to properly resource the services that they rely on.”

For more information, interviews or case studies, please contact Emma Baird on 0141 285 7938/07791 230261 or ebaird@carers.org


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