We have been informed that very few, if any, of the proposed amendments to the Self Directed Support Bill in relation to unpaid carers have been moved for Stage 3, with the exception of at least one amendment submitted by Scottish Labour which relates to Section 16 of the Bill.
Section 16 of the Bill would amend section 87 of the Social Work (Scotland) Act 1968 (concerning local authorities' powers to charge for services or support) and would allow local authorities to charge for support provided to unpaid carers.
This amendment has not been supported by the Government. It effectively opens up the possibility that local authorities can extend charges for support to thousands of unpaid carers who love and support those with a disability or long-term health condition.
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Our loved ones are in many cases facing cuts to existing support services. Carers have very few rights and access to appropriate support in our own right is increasingly difficult. Each day, we and our families are finding it harder – due to existing charging and tightening eligibility criteria – to access the support needed to help the people we love and care for live with dignity and be fully part of our communities.
We cannot understand why this Government has chosen not to strengthen the rights of carers when ministers consistently tell us how much our contribution is valued. By effectively extending charging for carer support, any commitment to valuing carers is demeaned and de-valued.
Is this the vision for an independent Scotland: one where carers who provide £10 billion of care and support every year are charged when they need a bit of help, which sustains their ability to care?
We ask that the Scottish Government reconsider the amendments submitted by carers' organisations.
We believe the amendment submitted to remove the provision which extends the ability to charge, and others suggested relating to carers' assessments and a duty to support carers will strengthen provision for Scotland's 600,000 unpaid carers, a group who save this country in excess of £10bn per year, a group that is growing, and may well include many of those who read this, if not now, then perhaps in the future. We ask that when the debate takes place all MSPs will put aside party politics and vote to strengthen this Bill for unpaid carers. This is about all of our futures.
Lynn Williams, Paisley; Debbie Pollard, Mid-Calder; Fiona Lovett, Bridge of Weir;
Jacqui Law, Dumfries; Jean Bremner, Glasgow and others.