Carers Week

This week is Carers Week and there have been news reports highlighting the strain put on the unpaid friends and family of older people and younger people with a disability. The Muscular Dystrophy Campaign know that people with a muscle wasting condition can end up being cared for by a friend or family member and for many it’s a full time job.

A coalition of the eight big charities involved in Carers Week is calling for three major changes:

  • Sustainable funding for social care
  •  Ongoing support and breaks from caring
  • Timely and appropriate support for carers from their GP

These calls are based on research from a survey completed by 3’400 carers about the impact of caring on the carers health and well-being. Two of the key findings of the report are that:

  • 83% of carers said that caring had a negative impact on their physical health
  • 87% of carers said that caring had a negative impact on their mental health

Another finding of the survey is that 50% of people believed that lack of financial support had an impact on their health. This finding highlights a sad reality about caring- caring for a disabled person can trap a carer in poverty. This can in turn impact a carers own health.

The Muscular Dystrophy Campaign looked at the impact on caring on carers’ finances as part of our 2010 report, the Cost of Living with Muscle Disease. Carer’s Allowance is only £58.45 a week. A carer is eligible to apply for it if they are aged 16 or over and care for at least 35 hours per week. That works out at only £1.67 per hour for the minimum eligible amount of care. However if someone carers for a disabled person 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, it works out at only 35p per hour. Shockingly, carers cannot get the carers allowance at all if they study a full time course (or any course for more than 21 hours per week) or earn more than £100 after tax. This denies many carers the chance to support their family, and where carers are able to carry out some paid work, acts as a disincentive for carers to seek out wellpaid work.

We believe that the work of carers, and the costs they save the NHS should be reflected through an increase in Carer’s Allowance to an equivalent level of Employment and Support Allowance. As carers are prevented from working full-time, or in well-paid employment due to the earnings limit, they should receive the same income as people who are unable to work due to a disability. The Muscular Dystrophy Campaign calls for:

  • Carer’s Allowance to be increased to an equivalent level of Employment and Support Allowance
  • The earnings premium for Carer’s Allowance should be disregarded to allow carers the chance to escape poverty.

These changes would enable carers to be better supported and take some of the strain off families. What better week than Carers Week to say again- support our unpaid carers!

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