Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Reforms 'boost help for carers '

Carers are to get a statutory right to request professional back-up and adaptations to their own homes
Carers are to get a statutory right to request professional back-up and adaptations to their own homes

Carers will get stronger rights to seek financial and practical help to relieve the burden of looking after loved ones as part of reforms to be set out in the Queen's Speech, it has been reported.

The estimated seven million people who spend some time supporting relatives will get a statutory right to request professional back-up and adaptations to their own homes to ease the load, The Independent said.

Around £150 million will be allocated to cover costs and town halls - whose social care budgets are already under strain - will be required to explain why they have rejected applications. "This would be the very first time that carers will be given the same right to support as the person they look after," a government source told the newspaper.

The changes are expected to be included in the Health and Social Care Bill which will introduce a cap on bills for long-term care in old age.

Legislation is also promised to allow care home managers who fail to pass on abuse complaints to be prosecuted as part of efforts to prevent a repeat of the Winterbourne View scandal.

Details of several parts of the Government's legislative programme emerged over the weekend, including a pension reform that will end the right to claim retirement-age payments based on the National Insurance contributions of a spouse.

Pensions Minister Steve Webb said the move would tackle a growing number of foreign spouses of British citizens living overseas claiming a pension although they "never put a penny" into the system and may not even have been to this country.

Existing pensioners will be unaffected but new claims at home and abroad will be barred from 2016 as part of a significant overhaul of the system that will also see the introduction of a single-tier pension, worth around £144 a week in today's money.

The focus on overseas' claims - despite the fact that there are eight times as many such claims in Britain - sparked claims of Government efforts to use the Queen's Speech to counter the growing electoral threat of the UK Independence Party.

A curb on migrants' rights to access benefits, housing and health services ahead of the extension of full working rights to Bulgarians and Romanians next year - one of Ukip's central campaigning issues - is already tipped to feature prominently in the State Opening address.

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