Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/661/11339
Needed: a fair deal for carers!
EVERY MORNING for 25 years he's brought his wife a cup of tea in bed - these days, she's likely to ask "who are you?" She doesn't recognise him any more.
Socialist Party member
One in five carers in the UK gives up work to look after a relative. This man has joined a growing scrapheap of people who may never work again - paying the economic, physical and psychological price of a failed care system. This is the true face of Cameron's Big Society.
Since October carers have feared that the pitiful carer's allowance might be included in the even worse Universal Credit proposals. It appears it will now "only" apply to carers on means-tested benefits. Of course, we'll all be hit by other cuts, not least the drive to reduce disability benefits by £1 billion.
There are six million carers in the UK but if you are under 16, in full-time education (over 21 hours weekly), earn over £100 a week or claim any other kind of benefit you won't receive the carer's allowance. Carers aged over 65 or sick miss out on carers' benefits altogether. To qualify for the grand total of £53.90 you must spend at least 35 hours a week 'caring' but if it's more than that you won't get a penny extra.
The last census registered 225,000 carers aged up to 19 in the UK, but a 2007 survey found 12% of 7-19 year-olds caring for someone who could not manage alone. Experts estimate the true figure to be between 500,000 and one million young carers. A shocking example of what this costs in human terms is the 13 year-old girl who cared for her terminally ill mum for four years before taking a fatal overdose of her mother's morphine tablets.
One in ten children care for more than one sick or disabled relative; 13,000 spend more than 50 hours a week on their caring responsibilities. The average age of child carers is 12, but it's common to find children aged five to seven caring for a parent or sibling. These children have no chance to be kids. A survey for Carers Week 2010 reported 76% of adult carers saying they had no life beyond their caring role.
Cameron may extol the personal benefits of volunteering - his "vision." But many carers sacrifice their life savings and/or homes; losing out on job opportunities and promotion - on average, adult carers lose £11,000 in earnings.
Over a million people experience ill health, poverty and discrimination at work and in society because they are carers. A fair deal for carers would include guaranteed respite care and at least an annual holiday. It would ensure adequate provision of aids and equipment as well as professional support services (sorry, volunteers are not reliable) and the unbureaucratic handling of claims and grant applications.
Payment should be in line with a decent minimum wage, but carers need to be able to pursue other activities, including employment. Children should be relieved from the responsibility of care - to be honest, it's more than most adults can cope with. There's no reason for us to be short-changed - we save the government around £87 billion every year!
In The Socialist 9 March 2011:
Socialist Party youth and students
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
Socialist Party feature