Blog by Les Allamby, Carer Poverty Commission Steering Group member.
Carers can hardly be blamed for thinking they have been forgotten by governments. Long term funding arrangements for residential and nursing care was examined by a Royal Commission in 1999 and revisited again by the Dilnot review in 2010. Both set of recommendations were largely ignored. More recent promises to resolve the question of funding social care have proved a mirage. Closer to home, the Northern Ireland Carers Strategy has not been renewed since 2006.
Carers UK and Sheffield University’s Centre for Care have just updated the assessment of the economic value of unpaid care provided in England and Wales. It comes in at £162 billion a year - up by more than 29 per cent in real terms from 2011. The impact in practice can be seen from the 1.2 million carers across the UK living in poverty, with 1 in 7 unable to afford to pay their utility bills in 2022.
There are solutions at hand. The recent Department for Communities-initiated independent review of welfare mitigations in Northern Ireland proposed and costed a twice-yearly Carer’s Recognition Payment; a Young Carer’s Grant for those aged 16 -18 not receiving Carer’s Allowance; and a more generous earnings allowance before Carer's Allowance is withdrawn from those juggling work and unpaid caring. The Carer’s Poverty Commission is focusing on how poverty facing carers can be tackled effectively and will report later this year.
Inspiration can also be drawn from Scotland, where a Carer’s Allowance Supplement Scheme has already been implemented, and carers play a meaningful role in shaping new policies and initiatives.
We are about to enter Carer’s Week 2023. It is a timely reminder why the work of unpaid carers should be recognised, valued and supported.