Carers UK and 74 other organisations representing unpaid carers, disabled adults and children, and older people, have joined together to amplify their previous call on the Government to recognise the financial impact COVID-19 continues to have on people caring round the clock for family members and friends.
Today, 3rd November, marks four months since the organisations first urged the Work and Pensions Secretary to recognise the financial difficulties unpaid carers are facing during the pandemic and introduce a supplement to Carer’s Allowance.
Despite the huge contribution being made by unpaid carers every day of the pandemic, with many having been unable to take a single break for months or return to work due to reduced care and support services, the Government has not acknowledged or responded to the letter, sent on 3rd July, which was signed by 92 leading national and local organisations who provide vital support for carers and their families, and who can see first-hand the challenges that they are facing.
Now, providing extraordinary hours of care each week and in many cases not being able to earn, a significant proportion of carers face further financial hardship over the coming winter.
Research by Carers UK, released a fortnight ago, shows well over a third (36%) of carers receiving Carer’s Allowance – just £67.25 a week for 35 hours or more of care – are struggling to make ends meet, with 15% having been in debt because of caring.
Earlier research with the Universities of Sheffield and Birmingham found more than 100,000 unpaid carers in the UK have had to rely on food banks during the pandemic.
During the lockdown 81% of carers said they are spending more money during the coronavirus outbreak – as they face rising costs include higher domestic bills, paying for additional care and support services, buying equipment to adapt homes, and purchasing technology to help with caring.
To help alleviate some of the financial hardship experienced by so many, the 75 organisations are calling for the Government to urgently act by:
- Introducing an additional supplement to Carer’s Allowance, to match the recent £20 increase in Universal Credit that rightly recognises the challenges for people on lower incomes of meeting additional costs thrown up by the pandemic. They are also calling for accompanying rises to Carer Premium and Carer Addition, and for this payment to be made to carers with an underlying entitlement to Carer’s Allowance, so older carers on low incomes can also benefit. These payments should be backdated to recognise the lengths carers have gone to in supporting and caring for others during the crisis.
- Raising the earnings limit for claiming Carer’s Allowance, to ensure those juggling work and care on low pay also receive financial support. The current earnings threshold, just £128 a week, does not align with the National Living Wage (NLW), meaning a carer can only work for less than 15 hours per week without losing their eligibility to Carer’s Allowance. The earnings limit should be raised to at least £139.52 for 2020/21 and should be linked to the National Living Wage in future years.
Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said:
“The coronavirus pandemic continues to exacerbate the ongoing financial struggle that far too many unpaid carers face. Without urgent support from Government, carers and their families are going to face significant hardship this winter.
As we pointed out to the Government back in July, the vast majority of carers are facing rising costs during the crisis and many have had to rely on limited incomes to meet those costs. I, and the other organisations who wrote to the Government over the summer are extremely disappointed that we have had no response to date.
What message does that send to unpaid carers, currently caring round the clock, at a huge cost to their own health and finances, and unable to get the support they need?
With everything they’ve contributed through the pandemic, it is simply wrong that hundreds of thousands of carers are left struggling to put food on the table or heat their homes this winter because they live in poverty. They deserve so much better.
The rate of Carer’s Allowance, just £67.25 a week for a minimum of 35 hours of care, barely reflects the support that carers currently provide. Working out at a maximum of £1.92 for every hour of care they provide, it is simply not good enough, and I hear from carers all the time who feel the current level of payment is an insult to them.
It is not too late for the Government to act and acknowledge the additional practical and financial strain that has been placed on carers during the crisis, by putting in place much needed financial support ahead of this coming winter. It can only be right that we give back to carers who have done so much for others. Without this help, many will continue to face real hardship and suffering.
The Government must act now to make Carer’s Allowance Fairer for Carers.”