The Queen’s Speech, which outlined the Government’s plans for the next year, suggests the support is no longer a priority for Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Through the proposed Carer’s Leave, unpaid carers would be able to claim one-week unpaid leave a year. It is reported that unpaid carers would be given the option of either being taking the support in one block of one week or as individual days or half days.
Back in 2020, the Government consulted on introducing Carer’s Leave to assist employees with long-term caring responsibilities who are continuing to remain in paid work.
Without giving a set date, the Government promised to introduce legislation when “parliamentary time allows” to integrate Carer’s Leave into law.
Due to Carer’s Leave being tied to employers, many expected the scheme’s legislation to be rolled into the promised Employment Bill.
However, in the announcement of the Government’s agenda for the next year in yesterday’s Queen Speech, there was no mention of the Employment Bill.
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Helen Walker, the chief executive of Carers UK, shared her frustration with the last of support being offered to unpaid carers and their families.
Ms Walker explained: “That the promised Employment Bill has been excluded from the Government’s commitments for the next year is a severe blow for unpaid carers. It’s a huge missed opportunity.
“The Government had been very keen to stress the introduction of a right to Carer’s Leave as support for unpaid carers, as an important part of its delivery of social care reform, hospital discharge and staying in work; – essential, given the pressures on families as the cost of living crisis deepens.
“It feels like the Government is backtracking on their manifesto promises to carers.”
Furthermore, Ms Walker outlined why this is a “missed opportunity” for the Government as part of its levelling-up agenda.
She added: “This is such a missed opportunity to value carers and to ensure that they had the support to continue to juggle work and care.
“Employers from Carers UK’s employer-led forum, Employers for Carers, have found positive business benefits from introducing Carer’s Leave. With severe social care shortages and pressures on the NHS, families simply can’t do it all. Many are at breaking point.
“This is precisely the time when Government really should be investing in carers and their families as well as employers by bringing in the right to up to one week’s unpaid Carer’s Leave and a day one right to request flexible working.”
Sharing her frustration, CEO of Carers Trust Kirsty McHugh added: “We had hoped for a clear announcement of legislation for a week’s unpaid leave for carers and a day-one right to request flexible working.
“Both of these measures, while only a start, would have been incredibly welcome to unpaid carers, not least because Carers Trust research found that almost half of unpaid carers say they have given up or scaled back on work due to caring.”
Outside of Carer’s Leave, there are a variety of benefit payments made available through the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
These include Carer’s Allowance and the Carer’s Element of Universal Credit, however claimants need to meet various eligibility criteria.
Carer’s Allowance is awarded to those who look after someone for at least 35 hours a week unpaid and claimants could get upwards of £69.70 a week.
In comparison, the Carer’s Element of Universal Credit is £168.81 per month and is given to people who look after individuals who are in receipt of disability benefits.
A Government spokesperson said: “Our ambitious legislative programme will enable us to deliver on priorities like growing the economy, which will in turn help address rising living costs and get people into good jobs.
“We have a strong track record in supporting workers across the UK and protecting and enhancing their rights, including helping more people into work so there are now more employees on the payroll than ever before, raising the national living wage to its highest rate yet and cracking down on enforcing the minimum wage, which is one of the highest in the world.”