Carers: 5 proposals to save a million wasted futures

If you are a part-time carer (part-time hah!) your chances of earning are greatly constrained. Employers and fellow workers get scratchy and fretful about the prospect of your absence and inflexibility.  And if you are a 24/7 carer, your prospects are even more heavily constrained.  As I said yesterday, a carer can write – but they can’t drive a train, or teach a class or work in a call centre, or run an office or take a blood sample..

If you want to retain your pre-carer life you may be lucky enough to have a relative you can beg for help. The only other option is paying someone to step in as carer if you want to work. And as you have to pay £10 per hour for standard care – and agencies charge £15 – this means you will have to bring in £100-£150 per day net (between £25 and £40 grand a year) to cover an 8 hour working day plus commuting time before you start actually earning.

Do the sums.

Most carers are priced out of the job market because the amount they are worth to the state is nil yet the cost of a working week replacement is twice the national average wage. It’s not rocket science.

SO WHY HAS NOT ONE OF YOU READING THIS (APART FROM THE CARERS THEMSELVES) NOTICED? And if you HAVE noticed, WHY HAVE YOU DONE NOTHING ABOUT IT?  Do we live in the Country of the Three Monkeys?

So we work as carers full-time for nothing because the state won’t help us –  and we literally can’t afford the cost of getting paid work. Year by year our skills, our careers, our confidence, our earning potential ebbs and vanishes. And then, often sadly, one day our caring responsibilities end…

One of the tragedies of being a carer is that you go from unacknowledged hero to acknowledged scrounger overnight.. bereaved AND redundant. With no earnings related pension, no career, no job opportunities to support you  – and with your professional and social contacts atrophied by your years as a carer.

This is a national disgrace and it must stop.

Government – don’t waste your money on patchwork initiatives and piecemeal support schemes. I propose you invest in the following:

Proposal One: That the social care system should define, recognise and respect the huge responsibilities of all live-in carers, and award them that mimsy flimsy £59 a week Carers Benefit, irrespective of age or employment, just as DLA is given to those they care for.

This would not only recognise (in part) the work they do, it would mean many carers who can fit in a little work around their caring responsibilities would be able to do so without the fear of losing this puny matchstick support. (And as paid work brings in tax revenue, the state may well find it is compensated for some – maybe a lot – of this outlay.)

Proposal Two: The state needs to pay into an occupational pension scheme for each fulltime carer to reflect what they might expect to have put in if they were working , say, an 80 hours a week at minimum wage. This would give end-of-life value to all those years in which they worked hard for someone else’s benefit. (It would also be likely save the state pension benefit top-ups to the carer at end of life).

Proposal Three: Solid practical careers advice and training must be set up to help carers train for and sustain appropriate work within their environment (bearing in mind all the work that could be done this way if the will were there: teleworking, local working, working that can be supported around care needs). This would maintain skills, support a career, restore confidence and provide longterm independence for the carer. This is not just about fairness, though it is. Its about economic commonsense.

Proposal Four: Take social housing back from the sem-autonomous situation it now occupies and ENSURE that any ideological nonsense about extra bedroom occupancy recognises the requirements of disability and caring in the allocation of rooms. When doing so the state must also ENSURE that sufficient appropriate accommodation is purpose-built for the disabilities of the local population. This would mean that carers are not further worried by the constraints of, say, caring for tetraplegia in a first floor unmodified flat. If you fail to support the people with disabilities in this way, much of the additional stress is felt by those who care for them.

Proposal Five: Finally, when allocating money to support carers, you really must ensure that money is ONLY given to organisations that offer properly targeted transport-accessible help that is fit for purpose  to everyone who needs it. It doesn’t seem a big ask  – but look around and see how many organisation do this.

Stop regionalising carers or subdividing them into disease-specific tranches. You may not be intending to divide and rule, but that is what you’re doing. Check that provision is appropriate and IS actually providing support to the people that need it and, very importantly, NOT bolting it on to the support for the disease. If you have a  charity that helps sufferers from Aggravated Dystopia Syndrome and their carers and it insists on helping the carers  by holding coffee mornings where sufferers and carers can all ‘get together’, it’s a bit of a busman’s holiday.

And if the charity is employing people on a salary – make sure they are a carer, why don’t you?

Who wins? Everyone!

Carers win, because they don’t feel shafted by fate and apathy and can see that their life prospects are valued and being protected

The cared for person wins. How guilty and how annoyed would you feel to recognise that state policy is ensuring your condition may be assisting in the inexorable decline of your loved one’s life?

The state wins. It puts in an insignificant outlay and targets other resources better. In return it gets a more employable, less dependent population with greater chances of a productive outcome.

Best of all,it avoids the current shocking waste of a large chunk of the human capital of this nation. 

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