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How much do you value Carer’s Allowance?

My last blog argued that we should not just think of carers as carers, but as people with various identities – football fan, theatre-goer, lawyer, plumber and even husband and wife. You lose your whole self by just focusing on one.

However, yesterday I heard about the problems created because carers do not identify themselves as carers. Because they do not think of themselves in this way, they do not know what support is out there for them as a carer.

Many recognise the act of caring but not the name of carer

Finding these ‘hidden’ carers is considered a priority which is why the previous Government spent a lot of money advertising where people who care for someone can get support. The posters asked whether you cared for somebody rather than whether you were a carer and there was a large increase in the number of people seeking support, many for the first time..

Many people you speak to will say that they don’t consider themselves a carer and seem to reject the label, preferring to put what they do in the context of being a son/daughter/parent/wife/husband. Others find being identified as a carer empowering as carers have specific rights and actually gives them an identity. They value the label.

The question of how much carers value the label may shortly come into greater focus.

The Dept of Work and Pension’s welfare reforms propose a universal credit or single working age benefit, which could (only could!) mean the end of Carer’s Allowance as a separate benefit. However, if this was to result in carers on Carer’s Allowance, which is the lowest benefit, receiving larger benefits, would this not be a good thing?

Your answer may depend on how much value you attach to the label of carer. Of course, any single working age benefit may still include extra amounts for higher costs of disability or caring, which would recognise the act if not the name. And as the advertising campaign highlighted above showed, many recognise the act of caring but not the name of carer.

Of course, you can still be a carer without receiving Carer’s Allowance – approximately only 8% of carers receive it – but interesting to hear people’s thoughts on this and the proposals.

DWP, 21st Century Welfare, consultation Summary.

Take care

Gordon

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September 12, 2010 - Posted by | Benefits, Carers Strategy, Social Care | , , , ,

20 Comments »

  1. Another very interesting post Gordon. I would like to respond to the two major points you raise. Firstly the identity of “carer”. I work directly with carers in Camden developing and delivering a variety of training. One of the days I deliver is called “The Caring Relationship” which includes an exercise where carers look at the relationship they have with the person they care for in terms of the “normal” relationship, e.g. mother-son; husband-wife and all they share – or would or did share if the cared-for person wasn’t limited by their disability, etc. The second half of this exercise identifies all the needs that the cared-for person has to support them to live well. The exercise is important for a number of reasons – (a) because it can enable carers to get back some, if not all of the quality relationship they had with their loved one; (b) identifying the support needs separates out the caring side of things from that; (c) the carer can make choices about what they are willing and/or able to do from the list; and (d) identifies the role of carer, as distinct from the familial (or other) relationship. Many carers find it enlightening to do the exercise and to see their situation more objectively.

    In terms of welfare reform and benefits. I have long held the belief that carers of working age who give up paid employment to care for one or more person should not be supported by the benefit system, but be given discrete financial support instead. The stigma, inflexibility, along with the financial struggle of being on benefits is wholly detrimental to carers’ lives. For carers who are not of working age, whose caring is nonetheless onerous, there should also be financial recompense to top up pensions, etc. Your earlier proposal of a percentage payback of the costs saves by carers as part of the new resource allocation in the personalisation agenda is one way of supporting carers financially without recourse to benefits.

    Comment by Jill Pay | September 12, 2010 | Reply

  2. Hi Gordon,

    This has been discussed among online carers last year. You can see their opinions here
    http://www.carersuk.org/Forums/viewtopic.php?t=9437&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0

    I am going to post your blog details on there to see if opinions have changed since back then. This all needs out in the open again.

    Lots of this is speculation but if we look at their final aim of a single working age benefit, we see the steps they have to take to get there. Link it in with the proposals of new ‘assessments’ for those in receipt of DLA, which would possibly mean some carers lose their CA and before long the govt will say its cost effective to migrate any remaining numbers on CA to JSA/ESA.

    Yet if we look round, see the council cutbacks, criteria being tightened, day centres closing, respite beds getting less…………there is going to be a far greater need for families to provide care not less.

    Family carers are unique, many provide high nursing care at home and yet this Coalition, and past govts, have continously taken their Love for granted.

    Everything is geared to getting carers into work and remain in work and that can only be good for those that are able to combine the two. However, how many still need to cease working, how many just unable to work and care at same time??

    To date there is no strong committment from any Minister, any Party, on what their intentions are regarding full time carers in fact their silence has been deafening.
    https://carerwatch.wordpress.com/2010/07/04/

    Most of their reform is being done by stealth, God help us with the next announcements in October.

    You mention the 21st Century Paper…we also have the Refresh of Carers Strategy, the discussions of future funding for Social Care…….each one affects the lives of carers. They should never have been looked at in isolation but started with the foundation that families provide and then build from there.

    The problems for Carers are already well documented. MPs get bombarded with letters/calls. Yourselves and Carers UK have done enough research/surveys over the years. The time for even more discussions, more meaningless ‘consultations’ is over, Carers need action and they need it NOW.

    Sorry for the rant G, just be glad I am away for a few days so kept this to a wee post :P.

    One question for you….what is PRTC stance on this? If the speculation re Carers Allowance going ( yourself and so many others ) turns out to be right, will you be standing up and condemning any such move?

    Comment by Rosemary | September 12, 2010 | Reply

  3. I was 28 when i had to give up paid employment to care 24/7 for my husband. I am now almost 50. This means i have been caring for over 20 years. This last year has been one of the hardest of my life because i have not only had to care for my husband but also my sister. For the first 6 months of this year i literally had no time for myself. No time when i was not caring. My life was looking after people, my social life non existent.

    Before i became a carer i was in full time paid employment but i had far more free time than i have ever had as a carer.

    At some point in our lives we all need care. Why is this only valued when it is care by paid workers. I believe that unpaid caring is also work. I want that contribution recognised by society.

    You ask if carers receiving more make up for the loss of carers allowance. Well as far as this carer is concerned NO IT WOULDNT. Far better to camapign for carers allowance paid at a rate that reflects carers contribution to Society.

    Many people’s sense of identity is partly defined by what they do for a living. Meet someone new and see how long it is before they ask you are asked what you do for a living.I havent read your previous blog (yet) in which you write we should not think of carers as just carers. Of course we are all different people and we are not soley defined by our caring role but i do not believe any paid job could have as much impact on a person’s life,could define a person more than being a carer.

    I am a carer wherever i am, when i wake in the night, in my dreams, whatever i am doing. In dring my respite I am on call, alert. I am never free.

    But i am also proud of the fact that i have been there for the people i love. I beleive that being a carer is worthwhile and admirable thing. I want that recognised. Indeed it would be a better society if more value were placed on caring, if more people cared.

    Some time ago i started a petition on the nuber 10 website against the proposal to transfer carers to JSA and to keep carers benefits separate in the benefits system. It was well supported. I sincerely hope that PRTC will fight to save Carers Allowance or at the very least not give tacit approval to its abolition.

    Comment by Philippa | September 12, 2010 | Reply

  4. From the Oxford English Dictionary:-

    carer (carer)

    Pronunciation:/ˈkɛːrə/
    noun
    British

    *
    a family member or paid helper who regularly looks after a child or a sick, elderly, or disabled person
    *

    I would have thought that definition fairly simple to understand by most people. So I don’t follow the argument that most Carers are calling themselves something else.

    Loss of Carers Allowance would in effect mean the loss of the classification. If transposed into some other benefit along with millions of unemployed it would further erode the hard fought for identity that we have at the moment.

    Comment by hairybiker | September 13, 2010 | Reply

  5. I was born in Britain. I carry a British passport.

    Apparently that means I’m British.

    It isn’t a label I use in everyday life, but it apparently defines me in the eyes of others.

    The word “carer” carries much more meaning for me than the accident of birth that put me here instead of another location on this very small planet.

    Comment by charles47 | September 13, 2010 | Reply

  6. ust a thought..it’s difficult to use the term carer in any meaningful way in the context of this discussion when it has become such a generic term for anyone who does any caring at all. For me the term carer was always defined someone whose caring role had become so time consuming or onerous that it affected the ‘carers’ ability to earn a full time wage or to have ‘a life of their own’.

    Comment by Philippa | September 13, 2010 | Reply

  7. I care fulltime now ,,after 20 years as a carer,. my wife needed fulltime care 8 years ago and I had to give up work,
    she is now doubly incontinent needs feeding ,and is imobile, very stiff,and mentally ,needs help ,she has ms.
    My concern is ,I would be insulted and hurt If anyone did not call me, a carer, as that is what I am . When I was working my wife was not so ill, so I did not call myself a carer ,I really believe that the term carer should mean somone who cares fulltime ,part time carers sould be called part time carers ,as that is what they are. Please keep descriptions of important roles clear ,the term carer means a lot to me, as it is who, and what I am.Frazer

    Comment by frazer duncan | September 13, 2010 | Reply

  8. what if we as carers move onto a new benfit which is means tested … many carers like myself can claim the allowance even though we have small occupational pensions , this occ pension bars us from any other benefit help at all , all i get in benefit`s is the carers allowance, to move onto what may be a means tested benefit, would see some with an increase but many like myself with a 100% cut in carers allowance ..
    UNLESS WE HAVE A GUARANTEE THAT IF YOU RECEIVE THE ALLOWANCE NOW AND ARE MOVED ONTO A NEW BENEFIT YOU WILL CONTINUE TO RECEIVE THE CARERS ALLOWANCE,,
    BUT NOY REQ TO SEEK OR BE AVAILABLE FOR WORK

    Comment by GEORGE HERSCHEL | September 13, 2010 | Reply

  9. Here’s my poem on how I feel about being a Carer long term.

    Carers Connect…

    I am a Carer and someone’s wife,
    The person I care for still shares my life.
    We’ve been through the wars my loved one and me,
    It seems such a long time so far back to see.

    When first you’re caring it’s all raw and new,
    lots of appointments and hospitals too.
    In early days you still hope for a cure,
    but as time keeps going hopes get fewer and fewer.

    Pills and potions giving anything a try,
    therapies and treatments to help you get by.
    Nothing is working and time still goes on,
    Keep struggling and striving into each dawn.

    When meeting friends who in years you’ve not saw,
    They ask how things are but talking is raw.
    They can’t understand and what support can they show,
    of an lifestyle we hope they won’t ever need to know.

    Information is power, we all need to know,
    best ways of coping, for help where to go.
    ‘Selfish Pigs Guide’* is a good book I read,
    it changed me completely, the things that it said.

    It told about Carers, people like me,
    millions all out there, why couldn’t I see…
    I’m not on my own, lots of Carers I’ve met,
    They chat and connect via the Internet.

    It takes some time to build confidence too,
    And state, I’m a Carer’ and that’s what I do.
    It’s not who I am but it is a big part.
    Carers keep caring body, soul and heart.

    Maz

    Comment by Maz | September 13, 2010 | Reply

  10. Being called a CARER is not a label, IT IS OFTEN A CALLING to which any DECENT LOVING HUMAN BEING would answer.
    The DWP minister and his department are playing with words,BUT THERE REAL INTENTIONS ARE TO CUT AND STRIP THE DISABLED AND THERE CARERS OF MONETARY AND PHYSICAL SUPPORT.
    IF you or anyone else think they are doing in mind to be caring – generous and considerate then the wool has truly been pulled over your eyes.
    You only have to look at who the DWP minister and his junior ministers are to see that they are all ex thatcherite supporters who sole intentions are to wreck the welfare systems so it can be privatised by there city and banking freinds.

    Comment by Taras Kurylak | September 14, 2010 | Reply

  11. Wonderful poem Maz – thank you.

    For myself I am proud to call myself a Carer, even though, if e.g. you are asked when filling in a form stating your occupation – I am a homemaker or even (laughably) unemployed!! I do not get upset by this but it just shows how little knowledge/awareness of what ‘being a Carer’ is.

    I care for my 89 year old Mum – she is arthritic, has memory problems, confusion, very frail and urinary incontinence problems. I live with her and am 62, receive a low State Pension and my Mother gets the upper rate Attendance Allowance. I have just applied for Pension Credit and awaiting to hear, as I have recently separated from my Husband and he owes me alot of money, which I am not likely to get back.

    I have an elder Brother, three grown up Daughters, 8 Grandchildren, but I still feel alone in my Caring role as I struggle to have any life of my own – time and shortage of money. The Internet( Carers.Org) has been a life saver for me – we help each other in numerous ways and now I feel valued. In the wider Society, I am afraid there is so much ignorance I do not feel the same way.

    Sadly, I do not believe my family mentioned above understand my role with Mum, as when they see her, she usually manages to rally. I see the fall out and I am the only one who really knows what goes on and what she really feels, what she needs, and I understand her. Lack of understanding from family can hurt, never mind Society as a whole.

    Keeping your self-esteem, confidence and the ability to ‘fight your corner’ is a must, or you ‘sink’ you don’t ‘swim’. I have turned into a ‘terrier’ fighting for her rights, my rights, signing petitions, blogging, writing to my MP.

    I am a Carer and proud of it – my Mum’s precious.

    I sincerely hope that we get alot less talk and alot more action from this Government to ease the financial hardship of Carers and enable us to get affordable respite.

    Comment by Anne Yavary | September 15, 2010 | Reply

  12. I’d query whether a single benefit would put carers on a higher rate of benefit?

    For some carers, those who’s other income means that they only get CA there might well be an increase – but what about carers who currently receive CA and income support because they have no other income? Are they to be protected or will they actually see their income reduced even further?

    The devil will be in the detail but I will state now that if they expect me to queue up in grubby office surrounded by junkies then they will definitely save money on my benefits because I’d rather starve!

    To qualify this – I live in a town that is crammed full of junkies sent to live here by other towns/cities – I will never forget having to go into the local benefits office with a query – the system was that EVERYBODY had to queue up to be seen at a reception window first – the queue that day consisted of a long line of junkies with me and my kids and a little old lady in the middle – I was scared enough by the behaviour around me but the little old lady was clearly terrified – I positioned myself as close as possible to her to try to make her feel a bit safer – the poor old security guy would’t have stood a chance if anything had kicked off big time – and what was kicking off was bad enough!

    You know – I am a carer and I want to keep that identity and not be lumped in with the whole ‘benefits’ thing – I don’t really have any choice about claiming benefits but as I WORK for my benefits I don’t want to be put in a situation where I am seen as somebody making a ‘lifestyle choice’ to be benefits.

    Comment by Boggle | September 15, 2010 | Reply

  13. On the TV yesterday a television reporter said that the Pope had given communion to a girl who had a disability. When the next person went up to receive communion, the commentator said the Pope is now giving the communion to the girl’s sister.
    Why, oh why can someone with a disability be mentioned but not when someone is a carer?
    Carers have a long way to go to before the public will be proud of what carers do, and only then, when they realize our worth and how much money we save the country, may things begin to change.

    Comment by Wendy Chill4usCarers | September 17, 2010 | Reply

  14. “No one knows what life has planned for you and a carers role can change in an instant, from one member of the family onto another.”
    Someone said those words to me tonight, and I wanted to share them, to show again, how important the word ‘carer’ is.

    Comment by Wendy Chill4us | September 17, 2010 | Reply

  15. @Boggle – I think the groundswell of newly unemployed, created by the impact of the new government’s axe-wielding approach to the cuts, will soon dilute the hoards of “junkies” at your local benefits office! Having said that – the reason I said in my earlier post that carers who are unable to be in employment due to their caring responsibilities should NOT be on the benefits system,is precisely because of what you say – you are treated as a second/third class citizen when you are on benefits. Also, carers are certainly not unemployed and often work double the number of hours and more that someone in employment would be expected to. They should be supported financially in a completely separate and recognisable way by the government, in acknowledgement of the task they undertake and the considerable savings to government because of the work they do.

    Comment by Jill Pay | September 19, 2010 | Reply

  16. “Also, carers are certainly not unemployed and often work double the number of hours and more that someone in employment would be expected to. They should be supported financially in a completely separate and recognisable way by the government, in acknowledgement of the task they undertake and the considerable savings to government because of the work they do.”

    Never a truer word Jill. But I fear those supposedly committed to campaigning on our behalf have become inextricably entwined with the establishment. Maybe its time to “change our spots”, that does not mean change our name, but maybe change our identity somewhat. Instead of eternally being know as “unpaid carers” maybe we should be known as “Frontline Carers” give the job another name just like government/civil servants/councils do when they want to pay themselves more…

    HB

    Comment by hairybiker | September 23, 2010 | Reply

    • I like that, hairybiker: “Frontline Carers.” Has a real ring to it.

      Seconded! Any takers?

      Comment by charles47 | September 25, 2010 | Reply

      • Thirded. ‘frontline carers’ brilliant. Spread the word (s).

        Comment by Philippa | September 28, 2010

  17. i have been a carer for 6 yrs i love karate i am a first que but i have had to put this on hold because of carers responsibility we dont want respite care we wont more money i see ozzy osbourne has not increased this lowest of the low benefit in todays cuts typical were saving £87billion a year yet we get treated unfairly

    Comment by mick kay | October 20, 2010 | Reply

    • I would sooner trust “Ozzy” Osborne rather than “George”! lol
      He’s a friend of a friend.

      Comment by ians12 | November 2, 2010 | Reply


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