Barnet is one of the biggest London Borough’s.  It has an annual budget of around £275,000,000.  These amounts are sometimes difficult to visualise for those of us who are looking from our individual situations in the Borough.  We know that Central Government cuts to local government have had a significant impact.  We have seen the closures and we have seen volunteers running local libraries in a bid to keep them open.

I am one of those people who honestly believe that everybody in the local authority – and certainly all those who I work with – get up every morning and do the best they can with increasingly limited budgets.  However, we know that they are not the only ones that get up every morning and put their hearts and souls into their jobs.  There are 40,000 carers in Barnet who do the same thing.  Day in and day out, these carers, young and old, healthy and ill, all unpaid, make sure that the people they care for – individuals who would otherwise have to be looked after by the state because of their own illness and disabilities – live a reasonable life.

Outside of the Carers Allowance, which I heard described this week by a staff member of a leading think tank as, “the most mean-spirited” of all government allowances, there is no adequate provision.  Barnet Carers Centre are the local authority supported provider of services for carers locally.  We provide help, support, training, access to opportunity and a whole lot more but we know that it is not enough.  Not enough given the amount that carers in Barnet contribute.

Because, if we calculate the amount of money that would need to be spent in Barnet by social services if those carers were not there, the numbers are staggering.  A reasonable estimate would put this amount at £800,000,000 a year.  Truly staggering when compared to the whole Barnet Borough budget of around £275,000,000.

So, there you have it.  Our communities cannot survive without the support of unpaid carers.  Our local authorities would not be able to cope without the support of unpaid carers.  Central government could not cope without the contribution of unpaid carers.  The contribution of carers to our society is huge.  We need to remember that.