Carers who want to update their skills will be able to access replacement care funding, the government has announced.
Carers who wish to enroll on government-approved training courses can gain support to find work through Jobcentre Plus funding to cover their care responsibilities, in a bid to give thousands of people a chance to combine paid work with caring.
Three in five people care for an ill or disabled relative at some point in their lives, according to government statistics.
The changes, part of the short-term aims of the £255m Carers Strategy due to be implemented by 2011, include:
- Funding for replacement care for participation in approved activities
- Ensuring carers have access to appropriate employment programmes – including one-to-one work-focused support for carers
- A care partnership manager in every Jobcentre Plus district, to assess demand for support and encourage development of local services, such as replacement care
- Specialist training for Jobcentre advisers who work with carers.
Yvette Cooper, work and pensions secretary, said: “Many carers really want to work, but find it hard to get the support or flexible work they need, to combine it with caring for relatives.
“We know that one in five carers has left or turned down a job because of their caring responsibilities. That is why it’s so important to give carers extra help, advice, funding for replacement or respite care and easier access to training too.”
Imelda Redmond, chief executive of the charity Carers UK, said: “Replacement care to allow access to training and support, and staff with the expertise to help with the real challenges that face those trying to juggle work and care, are big steps towards giving carers new opportunities to stay in or return to work.”
However, the Carers Strategy document, launched by the Department of Health in June last year, warned that carers must be assured that replacement care would match high standards.
It said: “There are issues about the quality and suitability of the replacement care being offered to carers. If carers are to be able to take a break and combine paid employment with caring, they must have confidence in the quality and competence of those who will be replacing them.”
The report also called for the government to consider offering carers replacement care to allow them to attend hospital appointments and screening.