Election 2015

Reality Check: How generous is Lib Dem carer package?

Carer helping woman into car Image copyright Thinkstock

The Liberal Democrats are launching a £150m package of support for carers as part of their disability manifesto.

They have pointed to Carers UK figures suggesting that one in eight adults in the UK has unpaid caring responsibilities, which would be 6.5 million people. The Census in 2011 put the figure for England and Wales at about 6 million.

At first glance, allocating £150m to help 6.5 million people is not very much - it's about £23 each.

But the party's release on the subject was very clear that it wanted to help all of them. The top line was: "A £150m package for Britain's 6.5 million carers was announced by the Liberal Democrats today as part of their Disability Manifesto."

So what are they actually offering? Eventually, they hope to give a bonus of £250 to carers looking after a family member who needs at least 35 hours of care a week for a year.

It will be introduced in 2017-18, at which point it will be £125 per carer. The Liberal Democrats say that in that first year it will cost £130m, which will be funded by most of the £150m they plan to raise from a levy on tobacco firms.

We have an idea of how many people will qualify for this. The Institute for Fiscal Studies says that in 2013-14 there were 645,000 claimants of Carer's Allowance, which you can only claim if you spend at least 35 hours a week caring for somebody.

The £130m would easily provide £125 for 645,000 people, with money left over to cover rising numbers and some people who are full-time carers but do not qualify for Carer's Allowance.

And what of the other £20m? That will go towards the £50m they say it will cost them to increase the amount carers are allowed to earn per week, without losing their Carer's Allowance, from £110 to £150. They haven't said when that will start though, so it's hard to be clear on the costing.

They also hope to give carers an extra five days of paid leave a year as well as a "passport" from the NHS, giving them privileges that may include more flexible visiting hours and free hospital parking and also offers such as free cinema tickets, free restaurant meals and free gym sessions.

All of which seems entirely laudable.

But if they are only going to spend £150m it suggests a high proportion of those 6.5 million carers will not receive much from this package of support.

Election 2015 - Reality Check

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