THE Government today awarded £5 million to carers who look after the sick, old and disabled in Sussex.

The money will be split between West Sussex (£2,295,000), East Sussex (£1,734,000) and Brighton and Hove (£904,000).

It is part of a £140 million nationwide package which to be shared out over the next three years.

Social services chiefs will decide who gets the grants, which will give dozens of people the chance to take a break after caring for relatives round the clock.

But there is concern at West Sussex County Council, which faces a £5 million social services budget cut this year.

Coun Barry Mack, chairman of social services, said he was delighted at the cash award, but added: "The Government keeps taking money from us, then giving us back ring-fenced money, which gives us less flexibility."

But Jean Spray, chairman of Brighton and Hove social services, said: "It's absolutely wonderful news. We already are doing a great deal of work with carers and this money will be used to support that work."

Ian Long, head of adult services for Brighton and Hove Council, said the cash would be spent on sending volunteer carers into homes.

Council tax for disabled people who live in band A properties will be reduced and the new strategy also includes plans for a second pension for carers to compensate them for caring instead of working.

Anationwide census will be carried out to build up a better picture of the number and needs of carers.

New legislation will allow councils to offer carers direct help.

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