Carers Week

Carer in the Community – the reality

I’m angry – as ever – about the unreality of National Carers Week.  It’s the ‘Lets go down with the Titanic – no not me, I’ve a place in a lifeboat, but you – you! Keep on playing a rousing foxtrot on deck to raise our spirits’ attitude of those who are paid reasonable salaries to work 9-5 to ‘support’ unpaid carers. Pictures of stands of smiiling folk showing what good fun it is to support us. Not a lot of pictures of smiling people who have worked gruelling 168 hour weeks for years on end, or the people they care for. Somehow we are less photogenic.
So here is my poem for Carers’ Week ( with an unphotogenic video – performed by someone who has had no respite or holiday from care for over 3 years


The Numbers Game

I say I’m one in a million; my father used to say I was won in a raffle – but  in actual fact I’m 1 in 8 : one of the the seven million adults who have given up  health, wealth, career and life-expectancy to be unpaid carer for an elderly or disabled friend or relative.

With love. Always with love. But not always voluntarily. Often because the was no other option. Statistically, 58% of carers are women, but my experience is that when it comes to working-aged people, it is generally women who draw the short straw.  Well, bless us, what else have we to do? It’s not like we do real work or have a real life or anything.

We’re a growing army of the forgotten and dispossessed. Every single day another 6,000 join our gang. Me, I’ve been gang member for seventeen years. And for the last few years I’ve joined the inner circle and become – not one in a million but one OF the million who cares for more than one person.

Between the two I haven’t had a holiday from caring for well over three years.

SO, what’s all this  to do with the price of fish? All very sad but what can be done etc. ?

Well, number one, in the run-up to the election, all sorts of figures were being bandied about but blow me not this one: We carers are estimated to save the state £132 billion per year (and that doesnt include lost work input and lost tax).

Lets dig deeper:

  • Over 3 million people in the UK juggle care with work.  How the significant demands of caring mean that 1 in 5 carers are forced to give up work altogether.
  • Carer’s Allowance is the main carer’s benefit: £62.70 for a minimum of 35 hours care a week, equivalent to £1.77 per hour – far short of the national minimum wage and £10 a week less than JSA. (And of course you may be working up to 168 hours a week for it). CA is means tested. Earn over £116 a week and it’s gone.
  • Over 1.3 million people provide over 50 hours of care per week- and 6 out of 10 of us are women.  Carers providing high levels of care are twice as likely to be permanently sick or disabled.
  • There is –  unsurprising – a high correlation between being an unpaid carer and poverty. So maybe it is also unsurprising that  its women who have a 50:50 chance of having been an unpaid carer by the time they are in their 50s. (Men have to get to 75 to reach the same statistic)
    (all figs from CarersUK)

The Conservative manifesto made the infamous pledge that you – yes – YOU, the person reading this, the one with a job, wealth, health, a career, a pension and a future – YOU  can give up your work for a year to care unpaid for someone. Not sure what you’ll live on? Wind and running water, like theis pledge was written with?

So this week is CARERS’ WEEK. Who will give up their job unpaid for just one week to spell an unpaid carer?

Don’t all speak at once

Carers Week? I’m only a carer, I didn’t notice..

So fellow Carers. Tell me ONE thing that has improved for you because of Carers Week? Don’t all speak at once .

In fact, what was Carers Week about?  I go to the Carers week website and I read the following, which frankly makes my blood boil:

Caring can be a rich source of satisfaction in people’s lives. It can be life-affirming. It can help deepen and strengthen relationships. It can teach you a multitude of skills and help you realise potential you never thought you had.

Gah! Please don’t patronise us. If you want to professionalise us, pay us.  And if you can’t afford to pay us – and the UK NHS and Social Care system is reliant on not paying 7million carers to do most of the caring work in this country – just shut up blethering, why dontcha and start thinking hard how to make our lives better, ok? We carers can judge how  ‘richly satisfying’being a carer is for ourselves.

But without the right support caring can have a devastating impact. 

No shit, Sherlock.

Evidence shows that caring can cause ill health, poverty and social isolation. When caring is intensive and unsupported you can struggle to hold down a job, get a night’s sleep, stay healthy and maintain your relationships with friends and family. 

Or you might not even be able to hold down that job, get a night’s sleep, stay healthy and maintain your relationships with friends and family. I mean have you – the person whowrote this –  personally tried to work 168hours every week without a break? No? Omigosh, no, you are merely working for a charity that talks about carers. You work European Working Time Directive hours, don’t you? You get pay? Sick pay? Holiday pay? An occupational pension?  Nice. You can leave work at the end of the day and go and do something else.  You can meet your friends in a bar at the end of work to say how hard work is – because for you, the concept of ‘after-work’ actually exists. You have weekends and bank holidays to yourself. You must really be able to empathise with our lot

“When caring happens, many people are shocked to find out just how little support there can be. Help is often out there.”

We both know this to be total rubbish. Help is almost never out there. The pretence of help,  the illusion of support – lots and lots and lots of words… but actions? No there are not a lot of those.

 During Carers Week events take place all around the UK to involve carers and make them aware of the support and services available.

Hah! I didn’t hear of a single solitary thing around where I am. Nobody contacted me. No-one involved me. The support and services on offer were what they always have been.  Nonexistent. Lets be frank –  when it exists – if it exists  – it isn’t support. And it isn’t services. Its a series of halfbaked initiatives and pats on the head from organizations too timorous to lobby, too embedded in the status quo to campaign, and too fond of their own comfort zone to extend themselves for the people they are paid very decent salaries to support.

Here’s a suggestion.

All you who think you are doing a good job supporting carers? Why don’t you do your job and stay in the building night and day for, say a couple of months on end. Don’t accept any pay. Work whether you are ill or not, and do nothing else whether you want to or not.

Live on that carers’ allowance that you make such mileage of supporting us to get. Really allows you to live it up big-time, doesn’t it!

Want to take a break? Go out to a village hall for a scant hour and meet workers from another carers charity  and sit in a set of rickety chairs  next to each other, drink a cup of instant coffee and make conversation. You have so much in common – particularly that business of never being able to move from one place. Experience  the full delight of getting away from it  – you were lucky to have the cover and there was so much to say to each other. THAT should support you for another month.

They say that before you criticise someone you should walk a mile in their shoes. You should have to walk that mile before you think of supporting them too.

I am sorry. you big carers charities – what you provide is not good enough. Carers want more. Carers need more. Carers deserve more.  We need  people prepared to fight on our behalf. Where are they?

Sign up to the Carers virtual strike

Carers Manifesto: five simple ways too change carers’ futures