PM announces new carers’ commission

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has unveiled plans to set up a new Standing Commission on Carers.

Speaking to the National Council of Voluntary Organisations, Mr. Brown acknowledged the role of carers in British public life and pledged to do more to make life easier for the UK’s estimated 6 million unpaid carers.

Jointly led by the Government’s Care Services Minister Ivan Lewis with learning disabilities and carers’ campaigner Phillipa Russell, the new commission will play a key role in developing and implementing government social care policy. They will report to Alan Johnson, the Secretary of State for Health.

In his speech, Mr Brown said: “As our society ages our need for care is rising. Care is an issue that will affect us all in some way in the future. Nobody understands this better than the many organisations in the voluntary and community sector who support carers and the cared for, and advocate for them.

“I believe that the thinking that will be of best help for carers and those cared for will draw upon the ideas, the views and the values of the six million British carers themselves.

“It is when government works in partnership with the voluntary sector, local authorities and carers themselves that we can do most to make lives better.

“But in future working in partnership must mean not only listening and learning but involving and engaging carers themselves in the solutions we need.

“So, building on the consultation we have been undertaking this year with carers, I believe we should now establish a standing commission on carers.”

Phillipa Russell welcomed the invitation to chair the commission, saying: “The past decade has seen a growing debate about what we mean by ‘social care’, with disabled people and family carers ambitious for support services which promote independent living and enable them to lead ordinary lives.

“The key challenges ahead revolve around changes in family structures and the population of disabled people, as well as the need for personalised services.”

The remit of the new Standing Commission covers both England and Wales, although it remains to be seen how its findings and recommendations will affect the Welsh Carers’ Strategy, the Assembly Government’s long term plan for supporting carers.

In March this year, the Welsh Assembly Government published the Carers’ Strategy Action Plan 2007, which sets out its milestones for developing the strategy over the next three years.

• To read Gordon Brown’s full speech to the National Council of Voluntary Organisations, click here.

• To view the Standing Committee’s Terms of Reference, click here.

• To read the Welsh Assembly Government’s Carers’ Strategy Action Plan 2007, click here.