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  • Virgin Media and Carers UK are beginning a five year strategic partnership which will use technology and innovation to address the loneliness experienced by eight in ten unpaid carers

Carers UK was sad to learn that former Labour MP, historian and Vice President of Carers UK Dr Hywel Francis died in hospital on Sunday.

He was the MP for Aberavon for 14 years until he stood down at the 2015 general election and did much to further the rights of unpaid carers.

Hywel successfully introduced the Carers Equal Opportunities Act in 2004, recognising that carers need "a life beyond their caring responsibilities”. This important piece of legislation dictates that carers should receive adequate personal support and information about their entitlements from local authorities. Hywel said the legislation was about valuing carers and their role and “not hiding them away”.

While going through Parliament this legislation was called Sam’s Bill, in memory of Hywel’s disabled son Sam who had Down’s Syndrome and died in 1997.

As of tomorrow (Monday 15th February), unpaid carers will be included in the next phase of the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine and will begin to be called forward for their first jab.

Unpaid carers are in cohort six of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation’s priority list for the vaccination. Unpaid carers are defined by the JCVI as “those in receipt of a carer’s allowance, or those who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer falls ill”.

Carers UK welcomes the news that unpaid carers will be called forward in this next phase after the national charity led calls for them to be included in the JCVI priority list when they were left out of previous announcements. These calls saw the JCVI include unpaid carers clearly in cohort six on 30th December 2020.

The JCVI recognised that where the main carer for an older or disabled person falls ill with COVID-19, the welfare of the person they care for would be at serious risk.

The Government has today published its legislative proposals for a new Health and Care Bill that aims to improve the delivery of public health and social care.

It aims to support local health and care systems to deliver care in a way that is less legally bureaucratic and more joined up. The Government has promised to bring forward proposals for reform of adult social care later this year.

There is currently no explicit mention of unpaid carers in the white paper proposals for the Bill, although it talks about people’s services and their families.  

  • Carer’s Allowance due to increase by paltry 35p a week
  • Carers UK delivers a letter from 5,000 carers calling on the Chancellor to acknowledge unpaid carers’ contribution throughout the crisis

On 11th January 2021 the Government set out how it plans to deploy its supply of COVID-19 vaccines in its Vaccines Delivery Plan, a huge task undertaken at unprecedented speed.  

Previously on 30th December, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) placed unpaid carers in group six of the priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine which Carers UK welcomed, as previous priority lists had not included carers. However, the delivery plan does not include this reference to carers in priority six, which should be clearly included.  

On Monday 4th January 2021 the Prime Minister announced that there would be a third national lockdown in England starting on Wednesday 6th January. The regulations allow unpaid carers to continue providing essential care. A family member or friend can also do this to provide respite care for someone who is caring.

The Prime Minister also advised people who are clinically extremely vulnerable to start shielding again.

Carers UK has welcomed the inclusion of unpaid carers in the publication of new COVID vaccination advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) published yesterday (30.12.2020).  This advice recommends that carers who are in receipt of Carer’s Allowance or are the main carer of  an elderly or disabled person whose welfare may be at risk if the carer contracted COVID should be included in Priority 6 alongside people with underlying  conditions. 

On 20th December new restrictions came into force across England, with regions split into four tiers.

81% want Government to show it values their contribution this year

Carers UK is delighted to be working alongside Carers Trust which is leading a dedicated programme to support hidden and under-represented groups of unpaid carers who have been most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic

In its advice published today, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has not included unpaid carers - people caring for older, disabled and seriously ill relatives - in its priority list for the COVID-19 vaccine. The priority groups are as follows:

1: Residents in a care home for older adults and their carers (here they refer to care workers)

2: All those 80 years of age and over Frontline health and social care workers

3: All those 75 years of age and over

4: All those 70 years of age and over Clinically extremely vulnerable individuals*

5: All those 65 years of age and over

6: All individuals aged 16 years to 64 years with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality

7: All those 60 years of age and over

8: All those 55 years of age and over

9: All those 50 years of age and over

On 2nd December new restrictions will come into force across England, with regions split into three tiers.

As in the previous tier system and throughout the second national lockdown, unpaid carers can continue to provide essential care. Support groups for unpaid carers can also continue in all three tiers.

The regulations allow carers in all three tiers to arrange for another family member or friend to provide respite care so that they can take a break.

Furthermore, the new regulations allow people caring for someone with a disability at home to form a support bubble with another household, a “linked household”. If they are just one adult caring for someone with a disability they can form a support bubble. If a carer has a child under 5 with a disability then even if there is more than one adult in the household they can form a support bubble.

Carers UK is renewing its calls for the UK Government to prioritise unpaid carers for the COVID-19 vaccine, after the Scottish Government announced it would do last week.

When Carers UK asked carers in October what support they needed most, carers ranked their prioritised access to vaccinations highly at second place, even putting this above breaks and increases in benefits such as Carer’s Allowance.

Caring during the pandemic has been one of the hardest things carers say they have done, as they have tried to manage with limited support from services that have been reduced or closed entirely. They have spent nine months worrying about the risk of infection to the people they care for with complex health or care conditions, and this has taken its toll on their own health.

Carers UK has raised the issue of prioritised access to the COVID-19 vaccination with the Minister for Care and it was a recommendation from the Carers Advisory Group to the Adult Social Care Taskforce. It was also a key recommendation in our recent Caring Behind Closed Doors: Six Months On report, published in October.

We want to see carers prioritised for the COVID-19 vaccination for the same reasons they are recognised as a key worker during this pandemic, and are prioritised for the flu jab.  The Joint Committee for Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recognised that if carers got the flu, then this could be catastrophic, impacting carers’ ability to care and putting the person they care for at risk. When unpaid carers cannot continue to carry out care, this places additional pressure on social care and health services.  We want the same logic applied to the COVID-19 vaccination.

Last week, the Health Secretary in Scotland announced that unpaid carers would be on the priority list for the COVID-19 vaccination. Carers Scotland and Carers UK has warmly welcomed this move, but we are now calling on the other three Governments to follow suit and value carers.

  • Care provided by families valued at £135 billion over course of the pandemic so far
  • Carers UK calls on Government to recognise contribution of millions of carers and protect their health and wellbeing

In the Chancellor's one year Spending Review today, he promised the following for adult social care:

  • Local authorities will be able to increase their council tax bills by 2 per cent without needing to hold a referendum, and social care authorities will be able to charge an additional 3 per cent precept to help fund pressures in social care. 
  • This funding is additional to the £1 billion social care grant announced last year which is being maintained. The government expects to provide local authorities with over £3 billion to address Covid-19 pressures, including in adult social care.

In a survey of more than 100 councils by the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS), many are reporting unprecedented demand for help.

  • 82% of adult social services directors report rising demand for help from people being discharged from hospital;
  • 69% report an increase in cases of domestic abuse and safeguarding of vulnerable adults;
  • 63% report growing numbers of people seeking help because of the breakdown of unpaid carer arrangements through sickness or unavailability.

ADASS is warning that unless adult social care is prioritised in the government spending review on Wednesday, millions of people could be at risk of receiving no care or support as the crisis continues.

  • Research by the charity finds 45% of unpaid carers identified by their GP were not directed towards having a flu jab last winter
  • Those age 50-64 and caring for fewer hours, or newer to caring, were least likely to be directed towards having a flu jab
  • Carers UK highlights need for targeted campaign to encourage carers aged 50-64 to get their flu jab

The Department for Work and Pensions has announced that it would continue to extend easements for Carer’s Allowance.

This means Carer’s Allowance will continue to be paid to carers if they are self-isolating due to coronavirus and those providing emotional support will remain eligible. The extension is in place until May 2021.

Carers UK is delighted to announce that it has been chosen by the Telegraph as one of the charities it is supporting through its 2020 Charity Christmas Appeal.

From today, 7th November, through to January 2021 the charity will be working closely with the Telegraph to raise awareness of caring and the challenges faced by unpaid carers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The campaign will help draw attention to the issues affecting many of the 13.6 million people in the UK currently caring for a loved one, as well as the significant impact COVID -19 has had on carers health, wellbeing, relationships and finances.

Research carried out by Carers UK this year found 81% of unpaid carers with significant caring responsibilities are providing even more care for loved ones than before the pandemic, with 64% having been unable to take any breaks whatsoever since the first national lockdown. Two thirds are worried about how they will continue to manage over winter.

The charity also hopes to help many thousands of people who do not currently identify as a carer better recognise their caring role so that they can get the practical and emotional support they need.

Carers UK hopes to use the money raised through the Telegraph’s Christmas Appeal to extend its support services for carers, including its helpline which has seen a huge surge in demand since the pandemic started, and to train volunteers to support carers who are struggling to manage at the moment.

The Association of Directors of Adult Social Services has today recommended that the Government provide £480 million to ensure that older people and working-age disabled adults continue to receive the care and support they need in their homes over the winter.

It has also called on the Government to deliver a further £1.2 billion to ensure that unpaid family carers get the breaks they need over the coming months, to enable them to continue providing vital, life-saving care and support.  

Carers UK calls on employers to actively support carers ahead of November lockdown in England

Carers UK and 74 other organisations representing unpaid carers, disabled adults and children, and older people, have joined together to amplify their previous call on the Government to recognise the financial impact COVID-19 continues to have on people caring round the clock for family members and friends.

Today, 3rd November, marks four months since the organisations first urged the Work and Pensions Secretary to recognise the financial difficulties unpaid carers are facing during the pandemic and introduce a supplement to Carer’s Allowance.

Despite the huge contribution being made by unpaid carers every day of the pandemic, with many having been unable to take a single break for months or return to work due to reduced care and support services, the Government has not acknowledged or responded to the letter, sent on 3rd July, which was signed by 92 leading national and local organisations who provide vital support for carers and their families, and who can see first-hand the challenges that they are facing.

Now, providing extraordinary hours of care each week and in many cases not being able to earn, a significant proportion of carers face further financial hardship over the coming winter.

Research by Carers UK, released a fortnight ago, shows well over a third (36%) of carers receiving Carer’s Allowance - just £67.25 a week for 35 hours or more of care - are struggling to make ends meet, with 15% having been in debt because of caring.

Earlier research with the Universities of Sheffield and Birmingham found more than 100,000 unpaid carers in the UK have had to rely on food banks during the pandemic.

During the lockdown 81% of carers said they are spending more money during the coronavirus outbreak – as they face rising costs include higher domestic bills, paying for additional care and support services, buying equipment to adapt homes, and purchasing technology to help with caring.

To help alleviate some of the financial hardship experienced by so many, the 75 organisations are calling for the Government to urgently act by:

  • Introducing an additional supplement to Carer’s Allowance, to match the recent £20 increase in Universal Credit that rightly recognises the challenges for people on lower incomes of meeting additional costs thrown up by the pandemic. They are also calling for accompanying rises to Carer Premium and Carer Addition, and for this payment to be made to carers with an underlying entitlement to Carer’s Allowance, so older carers on low incomes can also benefit. These payments should be backdated to recognise the lengths carers have gone to in supporting and caring for others during the crisis.

  • Raising the earnings limit for claiming Carer’s Allowance, to ensure those juggling work and care on low pay also receive financial support. The current earnings threshold, just £128 a week, does not align with the National Living Wage (NLW), meaning a carer can only work for less than 15 hours per week without losing their eligibility to Carer’s Allowance. The earnings limit should be raised to at least £139.52 for 2020/21 and should be linked to the National Living Wage in future years.

On Saturday 31st October the Prime Minister announced that there would be a second national lockdown in England starting on Thursday 5th November, after Parliament had debated the specific measures.

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