I've been a full time carer for my boyfriend since I moved in with him, thanks to an anasthetic that badly affected his M.E. He also has severe mental health problems which are on going.

I've been considering the prospect of returning to paid employment, probably not full time but enough to get tax credits (as we have children). This isn't a decision based on finances but instead on a desire to do something... I know being a carer is doing something, doing something very valuable, but it just feels like something's missing in my life and I think it's having an employer, having non-home related responsibilities.

But my partner cannot work and needs full time care. When I tentatively brought the subject up with him, he was so upset and explained how crushingly lonely he'd been before he met me and his fear that once I went to work he would be lonely once more. I know that staying at home all the time would severely damage his already fragile mental health, but his physical health means that he is not an independent traveller and also needs help with toileting.

We've toyed with the idea of using self-directed support to find a PA but my partner again is very nervous of this due to a terrible experience of homophobia at the hands of a PA in the past - we are both 'out' as gay men and proud of who we are but there are still huge hurdles to overcome within the paid staff of the care sector.

So I am stuck. Do I press on with finding employment and employ a PA and hope to god that my partner's loneliness is just a product of fear rather than fact? Do I abandon the thought of working and stay at his side? Or is there a middle-line, some compromise that I cannot see? (By the way, a job with less working hours wouldn't suit as we'd lose Income Support, Council Tax benefit, Free school meals, etc. but wouldn't gain either enough in wages or Tax Credits to make up the difference)