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Isn’t it time we put carers on the map?

There are over seven million of us UK-wide and we save the state billions of pounds every year. And yet where are carers in the national debate?

Carers are at breaking point. Many are forced into poverty and over one and a half million of us are caring for more than 50 hours per week.

At Carers Trust, our UK-wide network of local carer organisations see children doing excessive amounts of care, parents of disabled children who are struggling to get them into school and desperate older people supporting partners with dementia completely unable to take a break.

Surely this has to change?

Realistically, in this country, the boundary between what we consider to be the role of the family and the role of the state in relation to care has always been unclear.

There is no agreed settlement about what it is reasonable to expect of the individual, whilst we have a postcode lottery of support depending on where you live in the country.

However, the system is now so broken that a whopping 73% of the general public believe the next Government MUST do more to help carers.

To support this, Carers Trust has developed three big asks of the next Government, whichever party crosses the line first on 4 July.

First, we need to end carer poverty

That means helping carers enter or retain paid work whenever they want this. At the moment, 40% of carers are forced out of paid employment because of their caring role and another 23% have to reduce their hours. 

This also means a total overhaul of Carer’s Allowance, the Cinderella benefit (in England and Wales).

The recent scandal of the Department for Work and Pensions clawing back tens of thousands of pounds from carers who have earnt just a pound or two above the earnings limit has brought Carer’s Allowance to the forefront of public attention.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. At just £81.90 per week Carer’s Allowance is pegged at a lower level than any similar benefit and it has a bewildering array of eligibility rules. It is in need of fundamental reform.

Second, we have to stop pushing carers to the limit with excessive care

We know that carers can get meaning and purpose from their caring role. But the huge increase in numbers caring for more than 50 hours per week, plus the increase in the numbers caring for more than one person and for complex conditions, is pushing many to the edge.

With all political parties wanting to free up hospital beds by moving people back into their homes, an excessive care burden can risk a breakdown of the caring relationship.

Third, we must give young carers a fair future

I am repeatedly shocked by what we ask young children and teenagers to do in support of parents and siblings.

I have seen children effectively running the family home, whilst carrying out intimate, personal care for parents with disabilities or health conditions and/or providing support for poor mental health (including addictions).

Is it therefore a surprise that young carers consistently do less well at school, are more likely to be persistently absent, are 38% less likely to go to university and less likely to establish themselves in a career? What sort of country are we if we can’t give these young people more support?

But we have to look ahead.

Carers Trust is resolutely non party political. Our priority is family carers and the health of local carer organisations.

We work with parties of all colours the length and breadth of the UK to help them understand the realities of carers’ lives and we consistently make the case for greater support.


Visit our General Election page to see how you can support us this Carers Week.

You’ll find suggested questions to ask any candidates who turn up on your doorstep, information on how to arrange proxy votes either as a carer or for the cared for person; and, of course, information on how to set up a regular donation or remember us in your will.

Last year, Carers Trust and its network reached over one million carers across the UK. So let’s put carers on the map. Not just during this year’s Carers Week, but throughout the year.

 

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