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Carers UK responds to Government's 'Living with COVID-19' plan

22 February 2022

On 21st February, the Government published its ‘Living with COVID-19’ plan.

Responding to the plan, Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK said:

“Lifting all restrictions and phasing out free tests leaves carers in the lurch- with yet more costs. They are left with all of the responsibility but none of the protections they need to keep their family safe.

“The idea that carers will have to pay for tests to keep their relative safe when they are providing essential care is extremely short sighted. If health and social care staff have free tests, why not unpaid carers when they often provide more care? Buying tests is not an option for carers on low incomes, especially when this is from Carer’s Allowance – the lowest benefit of its kind at just £67.60 per week. 

“Recently, 31 per cent of carers told us they were struggling to make ends meet.[i] These extra costs will pile on the financial pressure and make it impossible for carers forced to choose between ‘heat or eat.’  Poorer families will not have the protection that others can afford – that’s levelling down for unpaid carers and their families. 

“Carers yet again feel invisible and overlooked as the ‘Living with COVID’ plans have nothing in it to support them, or recognition of what they have done during the pandemic.  There is no recognition of the fact that 4.5 million more people took on unpaid care, £193 billion value of care has been provided in a year, and that carers have effectively propped up health and care services in protecting their relatives often at a cost to their own health, wellbeing and ability to do paid work.

“For carers, this will be returning to the early pandemic as family members providing essential care will again have to make a judgement call about whether they are COVID- positive or not and whether they can provide essential care. With social care in very short supply, there’s no one to step in at short notice. We know that unpaid carers’ mental and physical health is at rock bottom. They are exhausted and this will add greater anxiety.

“For some who are juggling work and caring, it’s an extreme blow if they are supporting family members who now feel that they must continue to shield. Some carers have told us they were extremely concerned about returning to the office without clear support in place.  Whilst many have flexibility, others do not."

Carers UK is calling for:

  • Free tests for unpaid carers to continue, along with free tests for the people they care for.
  • Greater protection and understanding in the workplace so that carers can continue to work and feel confident they do not expose their relative to additional risk.
  • Government to provide specific guidance for employers in relation to carers and people with specific conditions.
  • Carers to be included in any future vaccination plans, alongside health and care workers, recognising that they provide the bulk of care.
  • Clear recognition in the ‘Living With COVID’ plans of the essential role played by unpaid carers – treating them equally with NHS and social care staff.

 

[i] From Carers UK’s State of Caring 2021 report

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