Respite Funding Not Reaching Carers

More than three-quarters of government funding (around £40m) allocated to provide respite breaks has not reached the carers for whom it was intended, according to two charities: the Princess Royal Trust for Carers and Crossroads Care.

In 2008 the government announced a doubling of the amount set aside to relieve the burden on family members and friends who look after vulnerable dependents. However, according to the charities, as this amount was not ring fenced, PCTs have in many cases allocated the additional funds into other areas or to the servicing of debts.

The government original pledge of £150m was intended to provide respite care over two years, from 2009 to 2011. A total of £100m is left to be spent in 2010/11.

Data uncovered under the Freedom of Information Act for 130 PCTs in England found that 81 had not allocated this year's cash or were spending it elsewhere, including to service debts. Care Services Minister, Phil Hope, has suggested MPs should help ensure PCTs are spending the money as intended.

Anne Roberts, chief executive at Crossroads Care, said: "Carers need support. Without a break they can often reach crisis point, where their own physical and mental health deteriorates. When carers reach this point, PCTs will have to provide additional support at additional cost, so failure to provide carers' breaks is short-sighted."

Norman Lamb, Liberal Democrat health spokesman, said: "Many people across the country are in desperate need of this support and ministers chose to wash their hands of this worthy cause as soon as the good headlines had passed… If ministers knew they didn't have the power to actually make this happen, then they shouldn't have made such a pledge in the first place."

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