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Government's carer support strategy blasted as "pathetic"

The government has missed the boat spectacularly in its "dabbling and pathetic" response to the needs of family and home carers in the UK, according to a dementia care and support pioneer.

Dan Lingard, Chief Executive of Melton Health Care Limited, says the government's response to a recent report on the plight of the country's 6 million unpaid carers who don't want to use professional care services, such as home carers and care homes, is another illustration of how out-of-touch ministers are.

The Commons Work and Pensions Committee's report, Valuing and supporting Carers, published on 29 August 2008, argues that the current system of benefits for carers is outdated, and that state help for carers is now of critical importance.

Mr Lingard said the report highlighted an issue that was "not just critical ... [but] massively urgent", and criticised the government's lack of action to tackle it.

"On the one hand the government is telling us that we are in some quarters enjoying better health and longevity than ever before, but they are simply not grasping the nettle and moving fast enough to address the issues that come with living longer," Mr Lingard said.

"Somebody has to help the growing population of people with dementia, and while some families' circumstances allow them to bring in professional support offered by organisations such as ours, there are many families whose circumstances do not permit such input and support, or, in fact, have decided they don't want to use 'professional' carers at home or from a care home.

"The committee said that it was disappointed that the government had not addressed the issue of financial help for carers in its Carers Strategy, which was launched earlier this year, and it has hit the nail on the head with regard to the key issue."

Mr Lingard added: "As somebody who is frontline in supporting people with dementia - and their families - I can only say that the government is doing what it has typically done for this much misunderstood and undervalued group of people: it has nibbled round the edges, dabbled, put off a decision and provided a pathetic response.

"Financial support for carers should be an immediate priority, not something that has been put on the backburner in the Carers Strategy until 2011."