LGA calls for council tax reduction scheme for unpaid carers

Local authority leaders have called on the government to set up a council tax discount scheme for unpaid carers ‘playing a pivotal part in supporting the chronically-underfunded adult social care system’. 

Under the Local Government Association’s (LGA’s) proposed scheme, carers who provide at least an hour of unpaid care a week – which would currently cost £17 on average – should be entitled to a reduction of £100 a year. 

The organisation, which represents more than 370 councils in England and Wales, added that a fully subscribed discount fund of £25m would support at least 250,000 hours of unpaid care per week, saving up to £220m a year. 

Recently, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Service (ADASS) warned that more than £1bn will be taken out of social care budgets in 2015-16 because of cuts in council funding, making the whole sector ‘unsustainable’

Cllr Izzi Seccombe, chair of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board, added that the adult social care system is in “crisis”. 

“The funding gap is growing by a minimum of £700m a year and councils are being forced to make tough decisions about the services they provide,” she said. 

“Unpaid carers play a pivotal role in the adult social care system and it is crucial we continue to attract them and recognise and reward the sterling work they do. They are the unsung heroes of the care system.” 

Leader of Warwickshire County Council, Cllr Seccombe said that without additional support, unpaid carers provide to the system it would be even more unstable. 

PSE has contacted the DCLG for comment, but at the time of publication had received no reply.

Heléna Herklots, chief executive of Carers UK, said she welcomed today’s call from local government for further support to be put in place to give all carers a reduction to their council tax. 

“The unpaid care provided to older, disabled and ill loved ones is worth £119bn yet without the right support carers often experience significant impacts on their own health and wellbeing, on their ability to work and on their finances,” said  Herklots. “Over two million people have given up work to care and many more have reduced their hours. A reduction in income and the extra costs of providing care mean that family finances can take a big hit.”

She added that as well as providing greater recognition of the huge contribution of carers, extending financial support with council tax would bring vital support for carers, many of whom are struggling to make ends meet. 

Gail Scott-Spicer, chief executive of Carers Trust, also told us: “We know that unpaid carers help save the economy over £119bn a year and that without them the health and social care system would surely collapse.” 

She added that “of course” much more needs to be done to ensure that they are properly supported including local government paying sufficiently to cover full costs for quality respite for unpaid carers “but this recommendation which offers some recognition of the contribution made by unpaid carers is definitely a step in the right direction”.

The appeal comes as the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) revealed today that 95% of carers entitled to Carer's Credit are not claiming it

This means that 190,000 people eligible to receive a pension boost of over £200 per year are not doing so.

Carers UK, a membership charity, said that carers often say it takes years for them to fully understand the support they are entitled to. The DWP's pensions minister Baroness Altmann is therefore urging people to ask carers if they have applied for the credits and help spread the word.

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