Weekly Poll – Carers Week
Each week Disability Equality Scotland send out a poll question to our members on a topical issue. For the week beginning 7 June 2021, we asked a question about taking on extra caring responsibilities to coincide with National Carer’s Week (7 – 13 June 2021).
Question 1. Have you or someone you know taken on extra caring responsibilities over the past year?
- YES – 95% (251 respondent)
- NO – 5% (13 respondents)
The overwhelming majority of respondents (95%) indicated that they, or someone they know, had taken on increased caring responsibilities during the last 12 months, specifically during the COVID-19 pandemic. We provide verbatim comments where appropriate to illustrate strength of feeling or personal experience.
Impact of Covid-19
During the initial stages of the first lockdown in March 2020, many people in receipt of social care saw their packages change, diminish or be completely removed. This resulted in many people having to take on additional caring responsibilities. In the intervening months, for some people, little has changed. Care packages have not been reinstated or have been at a reduced capacity, leaving many people to administer care themselves.
“SDS withdrawn and no other supports or financial supports offered. Unpaid carers have been totally forgotten about.”
“Still waiting for support services to restart. I have been offered little to replace previous care that was withdrawn well over a year ago. I’m exhausted.”
“From the initial lockdown on the 23rd March 2020, our support package ceased with immediate effect on this date. Some 5 months later we began to receive a reduced level of support returning to full support only in recent weeks.”
“Unpaid care stopped in March 2020. Due to first lockdown savage bus cuts were made in rural areas Carer stopped coming due to taxis being unaffordable.”
Support packages were not the only casualty of COVID-19, many respite services also had to close which meant that neither carers nor the person they care for had a break during the pandemic.
“Our adult daughter has autism. She had no outlet or supports at all during the first two periods of lockdown. We were able to access a two-day respite break in October last year but that is all. We continue to struggle to have the respite budget reassessed and renewed – currently remaining on yet another reassessment of needs that do not change from one year to another.”
“Carers have had respite breaks cancelled due to covid, services have been withdrawn and unpaid carers have had their caring duties increased.
Feedback suggests that Covid-19 has exposed an already-vulnerable system and that carers are left to manage when they are already over- stretched.
Eligibility for carer’s allowance
Currently the Scottish Government pay Carer’s Allowance to those who care for someone at least 35 hours a week, if that person is in receipt of benefits such as Personal Independence Payments, Disability Living Allowance or Attendance Allowance. The payment is £67.60 per week.
There are additional eligibility criteria to meet, one of which is that the
carer’s earnings are £128 or less a week after tax, National Insurance and expenses to qualify. This criteria has an impact on those who have taken on additional caring responsibilities over the last year and has led to many people performing caring duties, but not being eligible for Carer’s Allowance.
Giving up employment
Some respondents reported having to give up work to take on their caring responsibilities. This has left many people in financial hardship due to the eligibility criteria for Carer’s Allowance, as well as at personal breaking points.
Another of the eligibility criteria for Carer’s Allowance is that individuals cannot get the full amount of both Carer’s Allowance and the state pension at the same time. This means that if your pension is £67.60 a week or more, you would not get a Carer’s Allowance payment. Respondents felt this was unfair and unnecessary and that the two payments should not be related, given the caring responsibilities have not changed.
“As an unpaid carer I think it is unfair that I stopped getting carers allowance when I started to receive my state pension. I never stopped providing unpaid care and I still incur expenses to do this. This needs to be reviewed.”
“I receive my state pension which stops me qualifying for carers allowance. My state pension barely covers my cost of living and doesn’t take account of the additional costs for caring for someone. Costs from fuel to go their grocery shopping, picking up prescriptions, parking etcetera. I have to pay these from my pension. This needs to change. I never stopped being an unpaid carer when I reached state pension age so why has my carers allowance stopped!”
“If we really want to make older carers *Visible and Valued* then address the fact that those in receipt of a state pension are not eligible to claim any carers allowance and aren’t entitled to any financial assistance to help.”
Insufficient pay and allowances
Those who were entitled to Carer’s Allowance felt strongly that the allocated £67.60 per week was insufficient and was not in line with the current living wage payments. Many respondents described themselves as ‘living in poverty’ as a result of their caring responsibilities.
There was a call for the Scottish Government to overhaul the Carer’s Allowance system to ensure that carers are recognised and fairly rewarded for the role they play.
Impact of Carer’s Week
Carers Week ran from Monday 7 until Sunday 13 June 2021 and its theme was to ‘Make Caring Visible and Valued’. Carers Week is an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges unpaid carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK. Feedback from respondents is that while increased awareness and recognition is positive; what carer’s really need is financial support as well as respite for their mental health.
Impact on individuals
Feedback from our members on this poll highlighted the huge toll caring responsibilities can take on individuals. Many people reported feeling exhausted, broken and struggling to survive.
The responses to this week’s poll indicate the extent to which people have taken on additional caring responsibilities and the subsequent pressures this brings, including significant financial pressures as well as feelings of exhaustion and burnout. It is clear from comments that the provision of support for carers is not sufficient, neither financial nor respite and there is a strong call for the Scottish Government to overhaul Carer’s Allowance and to recognise carers as undertaking a job, with a sufficient financial payment.