26th June 2014
Dear Iain Duncan Smith
Carers Virtual Strike 21 June 2014
Since the beginning of the year you have been receiving emails from hundreds of unpaid family carers to tell you about the first Carers’ Virtual Strike. The strike was to highlight the continuing indifference and longstanding lack of support offered to carers by successive governments who paradoxically depend upon the same 7 million unpaid carers to balance their books. We wrote to you specifically because – as workers – we were asking for changes to carers’ allowance, pension arrangements and working conditions. We have had no reply from you, or from the Department of Work and Pensions to these emails – not even an acknowledgement of receipt.
The first strike took place on 21 June. 988 virtual strikers took part, logging up 23,712 virtual strike hours on that day. If you had had to replace these few for the 24 hour day they work unpaid, the cost to the state would have been £355,680. If they had fallen dead of exhaustion – and working round the clock for months, years on end makes this a distinct possibility – the annual replacement cost would be £130 MILLION. Multiply that by the millions of carers the state is relying on to work these inhumane hours and you can see you have a problem.
On the off-chance that you – and the DWP – may have failed to receive every single one of our communications, I am sending the letter again – both as an email, and as a paper copy, with the names of every signatory. I am also copying it to various media outlets and publishing it online:
“Have you ever been on duty – responsible for someone’s life – 168 hours a week, week in, week out? It is quite as dreadful as it sounds. You have difficulty with everything: working, sleeping, socialising, existing. And, no, you don’t get used to it.
Many – most – carers struggle with difficult daily conflicts between work and care, and an estimated one million have had to give up work or reduce their hours and lose much needed income. (And often a lot of freedom, companionship and self-esteem in the bargain). As money worries cause stress, it’s hardly surprising that a lot of carers are also suffering from anxiety and depression because of finance.
Successive governments have failed to support us.
Loss of life, of income, of individuality. It’s a huge price to pay for love. Yet we don’t expect to be thought of as noble: we do it because we care and there are no other options . But it isn’t surprising that we would rather be thought of as the workers we are rather than the saints we are not and be treated accordingly.
This is why we, the unpaid carers of Britain are going on strike. A strike with a difference – we Carers will only be withdrawing our labour virtually. And so, unlike with a real strike, we can ensure that our loved ones will stay alive and safe and protected.
There is no way that the state can compensate us for the sheer amount of time we give up voluntarily. But you can prevent it from wrecking our lives and futures and making us an unwilling burden on the state when our caring work is over. We want you to recognise and recompense the work of the nation’s unpaid carers. Not for justice – though it would be just. But to ensure the country designs a robust response to the caring crisis that is coming upon us.
Our demands are modest, affordable and practical:
1. Carers Allowance for all live-in carers, irrespective of age or employment, just as DLA/PIP is given to those we care for
2. A state-funded occupational pension scheme for each fulltime carer to reflect what we might expect to have if we were working, say, only an 80 hours a week at minimum wage
3. Solid practical careers advice and training for working-age carers to help us train for and sustain appropriate work within our environment and to provide us with the luxury of a working life should our caring duties finish
4. Social housing to recognise the requirements of disability and caring in the allocation of rooms. Sufficient appropriate accommodation purpose-built for the disabilities of the local population – because if it is not provided this is a huge stress on carers
5. That state money ONLY given to carer organisations that offer properly targeted, transport-accessible, fit-for-purpose help for every carer who needs it.
Please listen to our voices
We await a positive response from you. The continuing plight of carers is most certainly not just our problem – it is also your problem, the government’s problem, and the nation’s problem. Ignoring it is not the answer
Carer with Attitude – AND another 987 signatories