This election must be the time when Wales recognises the huge debt we owe to unpaid carers. Politicians of all parties must commit to supporting urgent action to provide unpaid carers with the support they so desperately need.

Too often unpaid carers are overlooked in public debate. The pandemic has demonstrated that many people across Wales are prepared to step in and care for others. But this has always been the case for Wales’ unpaid carers - hundreds of thousands of whom provide care to family and friends who are older, have an illness or disability.

Carer Wales research has found this huge, unpaid, contribution to supporting Wales through the pandemic has saved the public purse £33 million every day of the pandemic - totalling over £12 billion in the last year. Our manifesto, which we’ve launched this week, sets out how all parties must ensure unpaid carers receive the support they deserve.

While 91 per cent of the Welsh public recognise unpaid carers as having been important during the pandemic, the sad truth is that carers in Wales have been struggling for many years. We believe urgent action is needed from the next Welsh Government to make sure this doesn’t continue any longer.

The 2014 Social Services and Well-being Act guaranteed carers in Wales new rights to information and to have their needs assessed, but after five years of our “Track the Act” evaluations, we know the reality just hasn’t lived up to the promise of the Act.

Last year we found 85 per cent of carers had not had their needs assessed in the previous year, and only 38 per cent had received information to help them care. That’s why our manifesto for the Senedd election 'A Fair Deal for Carers”, calls for a plan early in the next Senedd to improve implementation of the Act.

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We’re also calling for a national register of unpaid carers, to make it easier to identify carers and provide them with the information and support they need. When unpaid carers move within Wales, they often find the services offered by one council can differ greatly from the next. That’s why we want to see minimum national standards and funding to ensure fair and equal access to carer services in every part of Wales.

Last year 76 per cent of unpaid carers told us they are feeling exhausted due to the strain of the pandemic. For many, this is because services they relied on, such as day centres that provided respite for the carer, have been disrupted or closed entirely. Our manifesto calls for carer services to be reinstated in full as soon as possible.

Unpaid carers shouldn’t feel they have to sacrifice their personal and career aspirations, but we know many struggle to balance caring with employment. Therefore, we would also like to see the next Welsh Government encourage employers to introduce carer-confident workplace policies, such as paid carers leave and flexible working. It is time to give unpaid carers the priority they deserve.