Carers Week 2022 – Cllr Page calls for more than just repetitive words

This week is Carers Week. From the 6th-12th June, as in every year, campaigns are supposedly taking place across the country to assure unpaid carers they are visible, valued and supported.

But are they?

Our spokesperson for Adult Care, Disability and Women, Cllr Caroline Page argues that unpaid carers continue in the same position, or worse, as they been over the years – and that this week is a sticking plaster to hide the reality that the majority of such carers continue to be invisible, unvalued, and lacking vital support.  The social media hashtag – created by carer agencies – is #carersweek. It is worth checking out the unpaid carers’ own hashtag #realcarersweek which paints a much less rosy picture.

Earlier this year, Suffolk GLI proposed an additional Social Care Precept be added to the Conservative budget. Care workers have been one of the bedrocks of success during the pandemic, and our Group believed that they should be acknowledged and rewarded for their sacrifice. In addition, Suffolk GLI voted in favour of a Motion put forward to amend care contracts to raise the pay of Care workers to the Foundation Living Wage – currently £9.90. The Conservatives did not vote for either, and so neither was passed.

The less care workers are valued and supported, the more inclined they are to move to other jobs, and then even more is left on the shoulders of unpaid carers,” says Caroline. “I know people who have had no respite since the pandemic started. Many are literally working 24/7/52, for (if they are eligible, and most aren’t) a taxable Carer’s Allowance of £67 odd a week. No pay; no time to be sick, let alone sick pay; no overtime in their maybe 168-hour week; no holiday, let alone holiday pay; no career prospects; no employer-contributed pension. And should they be – tragically – bereaved, they are also made redundant on the same day – with all the qualifications that come with the multiple roles unpaid carers undertake, but none of which are recognised on paper.

“Low pay and low prestige means it is becoming harder and harder to find care workers prepared to accept the responsibility and the hours to help support families. Who can blame them when they can earn as much or more doing jobs that require less responsibility?  Unpaid carers were silent heroes even before the pandemic, and it is essential that they are recognised for the pressures they are facing, respected for all they are doing, and given the support they need.

Research from Carers Trust shows almost half (48%) of all adult carers have had to give up work and an income because of their caring role. In addition, 49% of carers have had to use personal savings because of their caring role. So what is happening to them now with the cost of living increasing – and most specifically the energy bills rising horrifically, and the price of fuel? If you lie still all day you need more heating. If you rely on electrical equipment to keep you alive, you need more electricity. If you can only get out of the house in a car you have to fill it with petrol. This government says they are levelling up. Unpaid carers see no sign of it.

Carers are in effect slaves, held hostage by love, saving the state billions. Many work 24/7 without a break for months, maybe years at a time. Unpaid carers have no pay, no sick leave, no holiday, and no employers pension contributions. Carers are seven times more likely to be lonely compared with the general public. The support just isn’t there.”

“This year we need more than seven perfunctory days acknowledgement. We must admit to and take responsibility for these hidden thousands in Suffolk, many of whom – appallingly – we still can’t identify, still living lives of quiet desperation behind closed doors. We must to our utmost to lift unpaid carers out of fuel poverty, economic uncertainty and social isolation.”

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