In this country we rely on the love carers feel for those they care for to save the state the real cost of that care.
Yet carers suffer from blighted careers, poverty, poor health (fulltime carers are twice as likely to be in bad health than their peers) and can look forward to little more than an impoverished old age. This is not only sad and bad, it is expensive. How much does it cost to replace 24/7 specialised, knowledgeable care? If you wear me out the hours alone cost around£55,000 at minimum wage to replace – assuming you could get anyone to work them for that money and do a good job. Five years ago when the cost of home care was estimated it varied between £18 and £27 per hour depending on whether it was daytime, evening or weekend. Goodness knows what it is in 2013.
People like myself have worked unsupported 168 hour weeks for years – in my case for the whole of this millennium. You know, its possible we might just get worn out!
So what’s the answer? I suggest the following serious revision of how carers are supported and viewed. And looking it I don’t think its unduly expensive or ambitious. Just common sense:
- The Carers allowance should be seen as a wage rather than a benefit, and awarded and not meanstested (exactly as DLA as awarded to those who are eligible) rather than clawing back sums in the long-established Scroogery that currently exists. Currently you can claim £59 odd a week -if you don’t earn more than £100: meaning carers are expected to live and further their careers on £8368 a year.
If, of course you earn a little more than £100 a week, you get no carers allowance at all. These folks have hearts like greasy bullets, don’t they?
- The government should further relax rules on ‘other employment’ to allow carers the ‘luxury’ of being able to work, and have some non-caring life outside their responsibilities.
- the government should agree pay into the equivalent of an occupational pension for carers to accurately reflect (ok at minimum wage) the real hours spent caring. This could be established by reference to the cared for’s DLA returns and would give carers the prospect of a securer old age with recognition of what can be decades of real – if unpaid work.
- a solid and appropriate scheme set up to train carers for genuine, satisfying jobs when their caring roles (often sadly) end. This isn’t a luxury – it is a reward for all the unpaid work they have done without prospect of career advancement.
I have suggested this many times before to the sound of clapping from fellow-carers, but of one hand clapping from those in power.
I’m tired of being vox clamantis in deserto.
Isn’t it time to listen to the people who best know what we’re talking about?