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Use NI levy to fund unpaid carers, Newcome urges Government

14 October 2021


The Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome, speaks in the House of Lords, on Tuesday

The Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome, speaks in the House of Lords, on Tuesday

FUNDING to support the “massive contribution” of unpaid carers must be addressed by the Government as part of its levy on health and social care, the Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome, has argued.

The Bishop is the Church of England’s lead bishop on health care. Speaking on Tuesday as the House of Lords debated the Health and Social Care Bill, which will introduce a 1.25-per-cent rise in National Insurance contributions to pay for the NHS and social care (News, 10 September), he said: “The massive contribution of unpaid carers — really massive — is not yet properly recognised. We need further proposals for funding carers’ breaks; for increasing the carer’s allowance; and for honouring the Government’s manifesto pledge on leave from the workplace.”

A carer for his 93-year-old father who has dementia, the Bishop warned that the “whole social-care system is already on its knees and in danger of breakdown”.

While he was pleased that the “ongoing nettle of social-care funding is being grasped”, he, with other peers, raised concerns at how little of the £12 billion raised would be left for social care after it had been used to pay for the backlog of NHS waiting lists.

Former Conservative ministers also warned that the “regressive” tax would not solve the problem of social care.

The former minister Lord Forsyth said: “The Bill certainly will not fix social care, but it will massively increase the regressive nature of the taxation system, because, as has been made clear, it will place the burden on those who have least, not those who have most.”

A former Health Secretary, Lord Lansley, expressed concerns over the tax hike. “It’s a tax on jobs, and for this to be happening in the week after the Prime Minister has told the business community they’re going to have to pay higher wages, they might as well be saying ‘If we have to pay higher wages, you might not impose upon us additional costs of employing people.’”

The Bill cleared the Lords and now awaits Royal assent.

Protests continue. A campaign for the reinstatement of the £20 Universal Credit uplift, which was withdrawn by the Government last week (News, 8 October), is continuing. The Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, told the BBC that the impact of the withdrawal was severe; energy bills continued to rise, and more people had been pushed into poverty. Reinstating the uplift was the “right and proper thing to do”, he said.

“The uplift has been so significant for many families . . . and families are facing bigger gas, food, and electricity bills. Simply, families tell us they’ve only been able to make ends meet due to the extra £20. It needs to stay in place, otherwise they risk going back into poverty.”

Bishop Butler was one of 14 senior faith leaders in the north-east who signed a letter appealing to the Chancellor for the uplift to remain (News, 20 August).

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