Should carers get a full-time salary for their efforts?

Published date: 07 November 2013 |

Published by: Rhian Waller 

IT’S National Carers Rights Day on November 29.

Many Flintshire and Wrexham carers contacted the Leader to mark the day, which aims to promote the rights of people undertaking care duties.

But as more and more people contacted the paper, it became apparent many carers fear they are viewed as “scroungers” putting a financial drain on the state.

Now they aim to set the record straight.

Joan Cullimor, 60, of Wrexham, said: “I am a carer for my daughter who is 23. I have cared for her since she was born. She was premature and sustained a brain injury, she now has learning difficulties and cerebral palsy. I get carers allowance of £59 per week and £45 per week income support. That’s my lot I’m afraid. I feel as though I’m a scrounger and hate asking for help.”

Joan first became aware of feeling “scrounger guilt” after the last general election.

While Joan has not encountered hostility on the streets, cuts to services and the rise of anti-scrounger rhetoric in national and social media triggered worry about her situation.

She said: “You start to think – is it me? Am I a scrounger? When David Cameron came in I thought, as his son is disabled, he’d understand. But all he has done is kick us in the teeth.

“I have no life but I wouldn’t change my daughter for the world. A bit more recognition and appreciation would be nice.”

John O’Brien, 55, of Flint, cares for his elderly mother and his son, who undergoes dialysis six times a week because of kidney problems.

He said: “I still feel I am a scrounger for claiming carer’s allowance and income support. I have worked hard all my life and I am finding it very hard to even survive on the money I get from the Government.”

There is no legal definition of full-time work in the UK, but the government says a full-time worker “will usually work 35 hours or more a week”.

Those eligible for carer’s allowance have to prove they are caring for more than 35 hours a week.

Carer Jan Osborne, 50, of Wrexham, said: “If you equate the £59 to the minimum 35 hours it’s £1.68 per hour and that’s assuming you only give 35 hours each week. Many people care 24/7.”

To fight stigma and stop people feeling they are “scroungers”, could it be time to stop thinking of the allowance as a “benefit” and start thinking of full-time care as a “proper job”?

The overwhelming response was “yes”, although there were a few dissenters.

Vicky Ellison, 23, of Acrefair, said: “They are being a parent to a child that needs extra care. Why should they even receive extra benefits for something they were willing to do in the first place?

“As I have a family member who has severe learning disabilities and mental illness I understand what hard work it is but, like any child, they just need good old TLC and love, something no amount of money could achieve.”

Jo Perera, of Wrexham, who works with the Autism Wishes charity, said every situation was different.

She said: “I am a mum to two disabled children who had to give up a job I loved dearly. I would love nothing more than to go back to work but the specialist childcare involved prices me out of that. It’s not as simple sometimes as saying you make a choice. I felt forced.”

Helen Bithell, 30, of Wrexham, said she chose to have her children but didn’t know they would have disabilities.

She said: “All the extra appointments, equipment and supplies I would need to make my children’s life easier, all the sensory equipment and accessories to help them learn. It all costs a lot more money than you think.”

Lynn Jones, 39, of Wrexham, said carers with a disabled child might need to spend more time caring for the child than the average parent and sometimes the person being cared for may never become independent.

She said: “As carers you accept that, but lots of employers find it difficult to be flexible to the needs of your family.”

Colin Roberts, 42, of Wrexham, said: “People like Joan Cullmore deserve more money to be honest. It’s the ones who scrounge benefits when there’s nothing wrong with them [that annoy me].”

Katie Ann Roberts, 36, of Wrexham, said: “I’m a carer for my son and a lot of people look at it as way of staying on benefits or a lazy way of getting out of work which makes me so mad.

“I’ve worked since I was 16. I’d love to go back to work but can’t as I need to look after my sons.”

Julie Wynn, 51, of Wrexham, said: “If someone is in need of a carer the carer should be paid according to the need of the individual and it should be at least the minimum wage.

“The Government should take in to consideration that relatives caring for their loved ones or family are actually doing a ‘job’.”

Sue Jones, 40, of Holt, said having a child with problems can take the choice to work away.

She said: “Why shouldn’t we get the measly £59 a week? We do nearly 10 times as much care to that child with a disability than we would with a neuro-typical child.”

Dee Hillier, 32, of Ruabon, said she didn’t mind her taxes going to “inspirational parents” who coped with the ups and downs of caring.

Sharon Neale, 40, of Wrexham, said: “I don’t really know anyone who is in this situation but £59 is an insult. That’s not even £10 a day. Like so many other things in this country, this is totally wrong.”

Sarah Williams, 33, of Wrexham, said: “I looked after my dad for three years until he passed away last year with dementia.

“I think carers should get a salary as for some people it is like a full time job, as it was for me.”

Lisa Clarke, 39, of Bagillt, said caring should be regarded as a job.

She said: “I looked after my disabled mum for 15 years on £58 pound and now she’s just passed away. Finding work is hard explaining to employers where you’ve been for 15 years.”

Do you agree? Share your views by emailing rhian.waller@nwn.co.uk.

http://www.newsnorthwales.co.uk/news/128068/should-carers-get-a-full-time-salary-for-their-efforts-.aspx

2 Responses to Should carers get a full-time salary for their efforts?

  1. Martyn says:

    I am a full-time carer for my 86 year old Mother who has vascular dementia, and very limited mobility. My caring role means I have to be with here virtually 24/7. I worked for many years, but had to give up work to care for my Mum, who is a widow – being an only child, there was no one else to care for her.

    Quite frequently I’m caring for her well into the early hours of the morning, just when those who are not in this situation, are sleeping. Sometimes, as happened recently, when I had to call an out of hours doctor for a suspected UTI, I got no sleep at all. This is the reality of caring.

    Carers currently save the government the equivalent of the whole NHS annual budget, each year. That’s over £1 billion – isn’t it about time we were given a share of that saving? Who would do the caring if we didn’t? How much would it cost the government to care for people if they didn’t have someone to care for them?

    Yes, we do deserve a salary, especially where we have been forced to give up work in order to carry out our caring role.

  2. Lorraine Allan says:

    Yes, 100% agreement that Carers should get a decent living wage! I struggle to live on Carers Allowance and after all if I did ‘give up’ my caring role then it would cost £8-55 per hour so that x 35 ( minimum per week) works out at £299-25 per week. Big difference of £58-80 per week???? No argument is there? This is how much it would cost to get a Personal Assistant to do the same work that I do! Yes, of course I love the person I provide unpaid care for but £59-75 per week is an insult! Not rocket science just sheer exploitation of the vulnerable situation as unpaid Carers we find ourselves in!

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