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By LGCnet political correspondent Robert Hedley ...
By LGCnet political correspondent Robert Hedley

Despite huge progress recently in recognising the work done by carers, and despite two Acts of parliament, most carers were still unaware of their right to an assessment of their community care needs, Labour's Baroness Pitkeathley told peers.

She said: 'The key seems to be to change change the behaviour and attitudes of local authorities, especially social services departments, so that they recognise what carers need'.

Health minister Lord Warner agreed there were still problems and more must be done.

He said: 'Work is in hand in my department to develop a measure of carers' assessments and their outcomes, so that it can be used to monitor a council's performance'.

The Department of Health was in discussions with the Social Care Institute for Excellence todevelop a good practice component to assessments on the DoH's carers' website.

Labour's Baroness Howells said more than 300,000 carers missing out on claiming the caers' allowance because they did not know about it. She asked whether the minister believed social services departments should be more proactive in encouraging carers to claim.

Lord Warner said government knew there was a problem, but there had been a huge increase in the number of claimants.

'Responsibility for the carer's allowance rests with the Department for Work and Pensions. It will bring in better claim packs for those benefits in order to simplify the claiming process. The government will continue to work with councils and the voluntary sector to improve take-up', he added.

Conservative Lord Skelmersdale welcomed welcomed the extension of carer's allowance to people over retirement age. However, because of the financial rules, it was an incredibly complicated process, taking in pension rights, the minimum income guarantee and other factors. Therefore, he said, he was delighted the Department for Work and Pensions was to send out new information.

But, he added: 'That is all very well from the point of view of administrators. The important thing is that it should be read and understood by the recipients. That has not always been the history of the Department for Work and Pensions'.

Hansard 4 Dec 2003: Column 484 -487

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