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The Magic Money Tree -a MayDUP conceit?

17905234-money-tree-isolatedI was going to write about the PIP assessment I attended last week as MsF’s advocate.

But, after May’s gift (bribe?) yesterday of a billion pounds – can I repeat that –ONE BILLION JOLLY OLD BRITISH QUID-  to bring on board 10 members of the anti-abortion, climate-change-denying DUP with their electoral share of 290,000 yesterday, to prop up ‘the will of the people’ when ‘the people’ unaccountably failed – no! no! no!

So much for that stale old trope of the magic money tree. Seems there was one after all, right?

Excuse the bitterness.

In my 18 unremitting years as unpaid carer for those I love and can’t abandon, I’ve worked so  damn hard, caring 168hweek after 168hweek after month  after month year on year back-to-back and unsupported (and the last few years, caring for 2 separate people). I haven’t had any holiday whatsoever from care in 3 1/2 years. I wake up exhausted.

And I’m not alone. There’s an estimated one million other very very fulltime carers out there, working as hard as I do. That’s a helluva lot of people to disregard.

And people’s response?  “You shouldn’t be so hard on yourself. You need me time. Take a break.”

No shit, Sherlock. No need to victim-blame. We carers don’t want to be hard on ourselves, folks. No, we want as easy a life as anyone else.

But in all the time I’ve been carer you could talk of carers’  needs – you could mention, ask, demand, yell, collapse even- and there was never political will or money to ameliorate the situation for me or the other 1 million Marthas like me. Sleek elected souls who felt entitled to charge the public purse £30 for breakfast, would endlessly mouth the same mantra: No magic money tree.

And now it turns out that if May had needed us carers enough, she could have fished behind the sofa and given the whole million of us £1000 a head, without batting an eyelid. Just like that!

No magic money tree, Mrs May?

You sure as shit found a whole magic money orchard the moment you discovered ‘the will of the people’ had disappeared and you needed to buy a few extra parliamentary votes to prop up your discredited beliefs and party.

Recognition: the MOST IMPORTANT THING to give Carers

To ‘celebrate’ Carers’ Week, carers are often asked what is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing that might make their life better as a carer. One?  Believe me, there are too many  MOST IMPORTANT things! Here are a handful:

ONE MOST IMPORTANT thing:  An end to the assumption BY people who are paid to work that because we are unpaid carers, our time has no value. I still remember the time vital social care appointments were cancelled at 10 and 25 mins notice respectively by a (long replaced) social worker who valued her own time much more than ours! She had a union and had working hours governed by the European Working Time Directive. No union will represent carers because they work unpaid.
And I work 168h every week and have done so with very few exceptions for this entire millennium. No contest!

ONE MOST IMPORTANT thing: An end to the idea that the 168 hour week you have worked for love is nugatory – that because you were given no pay, sick pay, holiday entitlement, occupational pension entitlement you must be a fool.  I know a highly qualified 24/7 woman carer living in a onebedroom flat, unable to leave the person she  looksafter, who  was earning £80,000 a year till a heartbeat changed her life. I have an Oxford degree,  and was captain of my University challenge team while I was there. I’m bright enough, thank you. That thing you say about peanuts and monkeys?  its a cliché . And only fools believe in clichés. Just saying.

ONE MOST IMPORTANT thing: At last, an understanding of the on-costs and end results of continuing lack of support. Over 1.3 million of us 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. I have seversal health problems: high blood pressure; inflammatory bowel disease; epilepsy – all developed  within the last ten years. I cost the NHS an arm and a leg.  Half the time I feel as if Dracula had sucked every bit of goodness out of me – and yet I cannot be sick.   Why?  I eat healthily. I exercise. I don’t smoke.  I have a happy and cheerful disposition, plenty of friends, a family I am fond of. I’m even friendly with my ex.  BUT I am a full-time family carer for my wonderful, clever, funny and kind daughter, and have been since the start of the millennium.Over that time alone I have worked more years of European Working Time Directive weeks than I have been alive. I am exploited by the state as free round-the-clock labour. Something has to give. And there is only one thing that can give – me.

ONE MOST IMPORTANT thing: Many carers can’t sustain the pressures of work and caring. Those who do work often have to earn around unsupported care responsibilities and so earn almost nothing. So we are poor, poor, poor.

And until the big Carers’ charities examine the ethics of paying ‘the market rate’ of over £50k for a charity fundraiser, yet spend their time doing more than supporting carers to claim the miserly £62.70pw  Carers Allowance (that can be claimed only by those earning less than £116 a week and  the oversight of the claiming of which, let’s face it, could easily be done by social worker, DWP, county council, doctors surgery, all sorts of well-qualified bodies )- rather than lobbying for big improvements  in our work-life balance – I can see no way to improve out current state.

This gives us less economic resilience to crisis. (OK it has given me NO economic resiliance to crisis. When I have had to take a taxi home from leaving MsF in Intensive Care at 3am because I do not drive and there is no other way to get the 8 miles home apart from walk, the £40 it costs represents a crisis to the family.)

So – plenty of MOST IMPORTANTs there.I think if there really is ONE MOST IMPORTANT thing, that ONE MOST IMPORTANT thing would be some final true recognition every day of the year of the constraints and pressures that we carers are under and a real desire to ameliorate our lot..

And final true recognition. Not the spurious, Carers Week  here today, forgotten next week encouraging the mooing faux support and interest that Carers Week consists of every year.  From those who pretend to care – and who do not really give a damn. 

(This is an update of a post that Carer wrote for Carers Week, 2014. Guess what folks? Nothing has changed!)

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

I’m Back – and still Furious

Did you miss me?

I apologise for my disappearance. Two years ago – just after the Carers Virtual Strike I went to a Carers conference and came out so sunk in despair that I practically threw myself under a bus.

The problem?

The huge divide between the narrative of the carers’ charity that ran the conference and the actuality of my life and those of so many I knew.

Carers have twice the average rate of suicide – and I’m not surprised.

So for my own protection I took a break. But the super ideas of Theresa May and her ilk to improve the lot of carers – latest mad manifesto offer: take a free 12 months unpaid from work to save the state £65,700, why dontcha? – have lured me out from my place of relative rest.

So I’m back. And still furious. Watch this space!

2014: the year YOU recognise you need to care for Carers?

I blogged this in January – and then started the Carers Virtual Strike. Party conference time. How are we doing?

Carer with Attitude!

January. Its the time of year to set out your stand.. so here is mine.

In 2014 I want to make the whole of Britain recognise and recompense  the nation’s  unpaid  carers.  Not for justice – though it would be just. But to ensure we have a robust response to the caring crisis that is coming upon us.

I want: non-means tested Carers Benefit, a relaxation on earning constraints for carers, and an occupational pension-scheme-equivalent for all fulltime carers to reflect our long years of hard work. Additionally, targeted careers advice and training; reform to social housing ideology and practice; and a guarantee from the state that money for carers is only given to organisations that offer properly targeted transport-accessible help that is fit for purpose  to all the people need it. Full details here:  https://carerwithattitudeuk.wordpress.com/five-simple-ways-to-change-carers-futures/.

And I am expecting help from everyone – particularly all activists and…

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Working mother of a disabled child – ‘a lifestyle choice’?

A life-style choice? I have spent 14 years being told that the pitiful amount I was able to earn around MsF’s care needs was in some way pointless. Yet I was on my own and had other children to support…

Scope's Blog

We’ve been investigating the extra costs of disability. For some parents and carers of disabled children, returning to work is a necessity. In a guest post from Hannah Postgate, she talks about attitudes towards working mums. Hannah campaigns for improved SEND childcare and is the co-founder of Rosyandbo.com which sells “toys, gifts and lifestyle products for families with special needs”.

The emotions of returning to work for any mother are tough, but putting that aside just for a moment… for many disabled families, returning to work is a necessity, economically. In fact it is even more vital as the financial burden is so much greater; bringing up a child with a disability is forcing families to go without essentials and get into debt.

  • 52 per cent of families with a disabled child are at risk of poverty.
  • It costs three times more to raise a disabled child.
  • One in seven families with a disabled…

View original post 457 more words

TUC – We are workers too. Represent us!

It feels like everybody at the top is doing well but everybody else is going to have to suffer”  says TUC chief  Frances O’Grady  on the Today programme  this morning.

Couldn’t  agree more, Frances. Its just that you and I might have varying ideas of where ‘the top’ starts. For me, its with anyone who is entitled to pay, sick pay, holiday pay, European working time directive – oh and who the Unions are prepared to represent because they are ‘workers.’ I  get none of the aforementioned because the TUC  – although their health and social care work members are dependent on me working round the clock for nothing – elect to describe me as ‘not a worker.’

(To my face, on one occasion. The person in question  was lucky enough to be on strike because – unlike me – they  could withdraw their labour without risk of fatality to someone near and dear.

Right)

I am far from disputing the injustice of the last twenty years of widening pay and increasing inequality. But like most injustices the tendency is  to look at people better off than oneself. Ms O’Grady mentioned the injustice of unbridled boardroom pay increases and MPs increases against falling wages and a drop in living standards.

Shall we look downwards for a moment?

Ms O’Grady, the unjust situation of millions of carers should not be overlooked by you and the TUC  any more than it is overlooked by Iain Duncan Smith and the UK government! As an unpaid carer who is still getting the same big fat nothing for my continual 168 hour weeks  that the TUC were happy for me to receive last year, the year before, the decade before that -in fact, every year since I became a carer, I would love the unions to be much less philosophical about my fate than they have been! 

Sod philosophical!  I want the unions to be as outraged about my life, my fate,  as they would be over their own if it were like mine!

If we want a truly equal society it has to be equal for all.

The first step to being taken seriously is proper representation.

No, not as ‘community members’. We need to be counted.

So, come on, who is going to take us on?