(But why not? Its also very sensible.)
There is no way that the state can compensate us carers for the sheer amount of time we give up voluntarily – nor should you have to. We do it for love, or duty, or common humanity. And often a combination of all three.
But you can prevent our caring duties from wrecking our lives, our careers, our futures and making us an unwilling burden on the state when our caring work is over. Not as a matter of justice – though it would be just. But to ensure the country designs a robust response to the caring crisis that is coming upon us.
And so I’m making no apology for repeating as Manifesto points, the five demands that we fulltime family carers want. (No, need.) They are modest, affordable and practical. And they are not extravagances; they are necessities. Me, I’m still surprised that you (and by that I mean all of you, not just those who run, or used to run the country) should care so little that carers have done without these necessities for so long.
We are not invisible – nor should we be so inaudible. It’s up to you to open your eyes and ears.
Proposal One: That we award Carers Allowance to all live-in carers, irrespective of age, income or employment, just as DLA/PIP is given to those they care for.
Why? This would not only recognise (in part) the range and responsibilities of work carers 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 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 pays 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.
Why? This would give end-of-life value to all those years in which carers worked hard full-time (the expression is meant literally) for someone else’s benefit. Pragmatically, it would also be likely save the state pension benefit top-ups to the carer at end of life.
Proposal Three: Establish solid practical careers advice and training 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).
Why? 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 it recognises the requirements of disability and caring in the allocation of rooms. When doing so the state must alsoENSURE that sufficient appropriate accommodation is purpose-built for the disabilities of the local population.
Why? This would mean that carers are not further worried by the constraints and logistics 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 also felt by those who care for them.
Proposal Five: Finally, when allocating money to support carers, the state 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 organisations do this. Stop regionalising carers or subdividing them into disease-specific tranches.
Why? You may not be intending to divide and rule, but that is what you’re doing. And you end up with organisations that are increasingly remote from the people they exist to support.
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 wouldyou 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.
Carers, sign up to the Carers Virtual Strike. Without harming the person you care for, you can make politicians aware of what it actually costs to care. Not a carer? Show solidarity by adding your name to our supporters page and let us know that you care that we’re careworn