Thank you for contacting me about research into and treatment for dementia.
I attended the Alzheimer’s Society’s ‘Dementia Action Week’ drop-in event and learnt about dementia diagnosis processes. I have posted what I learnt from this invaluable and moving event here. At 63%, the diagnosis rate almost reaches the National Ambition Target of 66.7%. I join you in hoping that that target will be reached and then exceeded and will be watching progress closely. In 2021-22, £17 million was made available to Clinical Commissioning Groups to address dementia waiting lists and increase the number of diagnoses, which I hope will have an impact in our local area.
Nationally, an estimated one million people will be living with dementia by 2025, so research is crucial to understanding the condition and improving outcomes for those affected. I was proud to stand on a manifesto that committed to doubling dementia research funding and finding a cure for dementia.
In memory of the late Dame Barbara Windsor, the Government launched a new mission in 2022 to put this into practice. Research funding for dementia will rise to a total of £160 million a year by 2024, with an additional £95 million being provided to increase clinical trials and research projects.
A new taskforce – made up of industry, the NHS, academia and families affected by dementia – will lead this work to allocate funding. You can register your interest to take part through the Join Dementia Research website here: https://www.joindementiaresearch.nihr.ac.uk/
I am greatly encouraged by the clinical trial results for Lecanemab and Donanemab, the first drugs of their kind to demonstrate a reduction in the rate of decline in people's memory and thinking in clinical trials. These findings will bring hope to the many thousands of people affected by dementia, and I look forward to receiving further updates about the development of these drugs. Research conducted and funded by medical research charities is critical to discovering new treatments and interventions for diseases like dementia, and I congratulate Alzheimer's Research for the work that has led to these findings.
The Government has announced its intention to develop and publish a Major Conditions Strategy. The strategy will set out a strong and coherent policy agenda that sets out a shift to integrated, whole-person care. Interventions set out in the strategy will aim to alleviate pressure on the health system, as well as support the Government’s objective to increase healthy life expectancy and reduce ill-health related labour market inactivity. Dementia is one of the six major conditions included in the strategy.
On 17 May, the Government launched its call for evidence for the Major Conditions Strategy which ran until 27 June. The Government is analysing responses and will respond shortly.
Carers must receive the right support to help them carry out their caring roles. A tenth of adults in the UK provide unpaid care for a friend or family member, and these people should be supported in the invaluable work they do.
The Government is continuing to support the implementation of improved rights for carers, enshrined in the Care Act 2014. Carers can receive support through the Carer Element in Universal Credit and through Pension Credit and Carer's Allowance has been increased to £69.70 per week. Over the last twelve years successive changes will have provided an additional £800 a year for carers.
The Government’s Social Care White Paper outlined a number of measures to support carers including up to £25 million to kick start a change in the services provided to support unpaid carers. The Carer’s Leave Act has also been introduced to give unpaid carers the right to take unpaid leave from work to care for older, disabled or seriously ill relatives.
Local authorities are also required to undertake a Carer's Assessment for carers who require support. This may include recording a career's needs and the impact of providing care. Local authorities have a legal duty to meet a carer's needs if these are assessed as being eligible for support.
Going forward, NHS England at a national level and Integrated Care Boards at a local level will have a duty to involve carers when care is being commissioned for their loved one. The Department for Education (DfE) will be amending the School Census to include young carers. In 2023/24, £327 million of Better Care Fund funding has been earmarked to provide short breaks and respite services for carers, as well as additional advice and support.
Carer’s Allowance was increased earlier this year by 10.1 per cent, in line with inflation, from £69.70 to £76.75 per week. However, there are no plans to increase the rate of Carer’s Allowance further at this point.
The primary purpose of Carer's Allowance is to provide a measure of financial support for people who give up the opportunity of full-time employment in order to care for a severely disabled person. It must be stressed that it is not a carer’s wage or payment for the services of caring, nor is it intended to replace lost or forgone earnings in their entirety.
I would encourage carers to check their eligibility for additional support, such as Universal Credit. Universal Credit can include an additional amount for carers who provide care of 35 hours or more each week for a severely disabled person. For carers who satisfy the qualifying criteria, an additional amount of £185.86 per month is included in their Universal Credit entitlement.
Cost of Living
The Government understands that people are worried about the cost-of-living challenges ahead and has announced further support for the next financial year designed to target the most vulnerable households. This cost of living support is worth £26 billion in 2023/24, in addition to benefits uprating, which is worth £11 billion to working age households and people with disabilities. This support for 2023/24, is on top of the £37 billion of support for the cost of living already in place to support households in 2022/23, in addition to the Energy Price Guarantee.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
Craig Whittaker MP