Can we afford to ignore family carers?
Care provided by them is a necessity and will be even more so as the population ages. Plus as medicine breakthroughs continue and many people with disabilities and illnesses will live longer, the country will rely even more on the foundation that family carers provide. They are a group of people who provide a vital service, yet governments, past and present, have taken them for granted, have taken their love for granted.
In this present economic climate we are already witnessing many cutbacks within Local Authorities:
- Care criteria being tightened
- Day centres closing
- Respite allocations reducing in many areas
- Meals on wheels costs increasing dramatically
- Care package costs increasing
- Transport for disabled people either stopping or priced out of reach
- Carers’ grants under threat
…………… and so the list could go on.
Yet through all this, the one thing that remains constant is the love and support given freely by families. They provide a foundation that would be a great folly for any government to ignore.
We recognise that many carers want to return to/remain in work, and realise that any support given to them is vital.
However we cannot, and must not, ignore full-time carers. Failing to recognise their input is storing up even further trouble for the future by placing added pressure on already stretched Social Services departments and the NHS.
Carer Watch were pleased to learn in the publication of the Welfare Reform Bill that Carers Allowance will remain outside the proposed Universal Credit. Along with many others we campaigned long and hard for this. However Carers Allowance has always been completely inadequate and carers still seem to be overlooked and forgotten as other benefits are changed around them in the biggest shake up of our benefit system in over 60 years.
To date, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Mr Iain Duncan Smith, and his department, have maintained silence as to their intentions re:CA. Leaving it outside the proposed UC is not enough. They need to address the problems that have surrounded this benefit for far too long.
There have been many campaigns over the years by various organisations (see notes below) all asking for the same – the reform of Carers Allowance – to remove the restrictions therein and also to increase the monetary pittance that CA is.
In the report Breakthrough Britain (2007) from the Social Justice Policy Group (policy recommendations to the Conservative Party) it was recommended –
doubling the carers allowance to £90 a week because of the vast amounts carers save the taxpayer by looking after their sick and elderly relatives at home and not relying on the state to care for them.
Other measures would need to be put in place to ensure that families claiming other benefits/premiums were no worse off.
The report also states -
Family carers are undervalued in our society and receive a disproportionately low level of financial support given the many hours of work that they do.
We cannot and must not allow this opportunity to fully reform CA to pass us by.
Carers are used to words of praise, more of which can be heard here from David Cameron but it is NOT enough. No matter how much understanding he says the Coalition has, no matter how many times he says Thank you, it is NOT enough.
Carers need action and they need it now