Care charities have missed out on millions of pounds of funding for respite care because primary care trusts have spent the money on other things, research by two care charities has revealed.
The Government allocated £150m to PCTs in England between 2009 and 2011 to provide breaks for carers under the National Carers Strategy.
Research by the Princess Royal Trust for Carers and Crossroads Care has indicated that about £40m of the £50m allocated in 2009/10 was spent in other areas – including, in some cases, to cover deficits.
The charities submitted requests to 130 PCTs under the Freedom of Information Act to discover how the funding had been used. The 81 responses they received indicated that 80 per cent of the cash had been spent on other areas in 2009/10.
Alex Fox, director of policy at the Princess Royal Trust for Carers, said "a good chunk" of the cash would have been used to purchase respite care from third sector organisations.
"The fact that the money is not getting through is very bad news for carers and also for care service providers, which are often working to very tight budgets," he said.
Fox said that over the next couple of weeks the charities would be updating the figures, which were originally published in a report in October, to take into account the position for 2010/11.
David Stout, director of the Primary Care Trust Network, which represents the majority of PCTs, said the funding had not been ring-fenced for respite care.
"Every PCT needs to balance its priorities across a wide range of services based on local needs," he said. "It is important that PCTs are transparent in their decision-making and disclose how much funding they dedicate to improving services for carers, alongside other services."