Last Wednesday in the House of Commons there was a debate on the theme of Clause 1 for the Carers Leave Bill and two of the Sussex MPs took part in the debate. The person who began the discussion was Wendy Chamberlain who is the Liberal Democrat MP for North East Fife and it is clear that she is the person who has formed this Bill. At the beginning of the debate she stated amongst other comments
The Carers UK published its “State of Caring 2022” report yesterday, and I will take this opportunity—I take every opportunity—to thank it again for its support. I see one of its representatives in the Gallery. As the most up-to-date evidence that we have about unpaid carers, I will refer to it a few times this morning. I am sure other members of the Committee who have a particular interest will have also seen it, and I encourage those who have not to do so as we all have unpaid carers in our constituencies. It is an impressive piece of work, but it is hard reading because it lays out all the ways in which unpaid carers are still, arguably, being failed.
According to the report, we can currently estimate that one in five adults in the United Kingdom are providing care. That is a huge number. It is hard to estimate how many of those are also in employment—a conservative estimate is 2.3 million. We will need to wait for the publication of the England and Wales census later this year—Scotland’s is next year—to get more accurate estimates, but we know that the numbers are high and ever increasing.
So a few moments later the first Sussex MP to speak was Caroline Ansell who is the MP for Eastbourne. She said the following.
I commend the hon. Lady on her work, and the Government on their support for this important Bill. She will not be surprised to learn that more than one in 10 residents in my constituency are a carer for a loved one or near neighbour. My understanding from my constituents and the business community is that they are supportive of the Bill, and that employers may fear nothing from it. Those with caring responsibilities do not even tend to take the allowance given to them, but the flexibility and recognition is what makes it so incredibly valuable.
And then after a few more MPs corresponding the Hastings and Rye MP, Sally-Ann Hart then spoke up
It is a pleasure to speak under your chairship, Mr Paisley. I congratulate the hon. Member for North East Fife on a really good Bill. It is a step in the right direction, and I wholeheartedly support it. As hon. Members have said, there are 4.2 million unpaid carers across the UK. They must be valued, heard, and given the support and advice that they need to provide their priceless care.
I have been a carer, and I cannot tell hon. Members how difficult it is. My mother died when I was quite young of acute myeloid leukaemia. There were two and a half weeks between her diagnosis and death. For my father, it was a different matter. He had a nasty cancer, and I ended up having to care for him for the last six months of his life. I had just gone back to work as a solicitor, and I had him living with me. I cannot tell hon. Members how difficult it was; there was guilt about not being there for him every day when he was dying. We were in a financial position to get a live-in carer, who was my guardian angel, and I am very grateful for that.
The Bill is a step in the right direction, but I urge the Minister to think about increasing the number of weeks in question, so that people can be paid for up to four weeks for caring for their loved ones, and for giving palliative care to a loved one who is dying. I urge him to think about that, because I cannot tell him how difficult it is to be a carer in those circumstances.
The Minister who was speaking in the debate was Kevin Hollinrake and he did comment “My hon. Friend the Member for Hastings and Rye spoke touchingly of her personal experience of looking after her father in very difficult circumstances. I think many of us can share her emotions.” So let us hope that this Bill is treated very well by the Government.