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Bring on 2013 – except if you’re on benefits

Benefits

I hope everyone had a fabulous Christmas. 2012 was a year of many changes, both here at Carers Trust and in real life.

Policy-wise we had some highlights. Seeing a draft Care and Support Bill with carers not only mentioned, but forming a central plank of the whole Bill was a real boost. But all that is against a backdrop of increasing cuts which takes the wind out of the sails of any progress.

The cuts are coming from all sides, and I guess there’s no way of escaping. But it seems like carers and disabled people seem to be taking hit after hit after hit – way more than a fair share.

Food prices are up, gas and electricity prices up, transport and fuel prices up, and VAT at 20%. No-one escapes this. Few people in work are experiencing increased income in line with the cost of living, meaning most people are going through a real-terms cut, year after year.

Concerns over welfare benefits uprating bill

To top it all, the Government decide that people on benefits might as well live with this too. The welfare benefits uprating bill is in Parliament, and MPS voted in favour of taking it forward in the second reading debate last week.

We were told that disabled people would be protected – and Disability Living Allowance, Carers Allowance and people in the support group of Employment and Support Allowance will continue to have these benefits increased in line with inflation. However, those in the ESA work ready group will have their rises limited to 1%, and other non-disability specific benefits such as Housing Benefit will also be limited to 1%.

These are cuts. Despite the promises, disabled people and carers have only been partially protected. You can find out how your MP voted here (scroll down to the second vote, Division No. 129 at 7.13 pm).

If you don’t like how they voted, you should write to them and say so. (NB – check your MP’s name in the AYES and the NOES list on the above link. If it appears in both, it means they effectively cancelled out their own vote – this is the traditional way of abstaining.)

Not all carers exempt from benefits cap

The other issue which will come into play is the cap on benefits. Inexplicably, carers – even those acknowledged as having entitlement for Carers Allowance, spending 35 plus hours a week in a caring role – will not be exempt. This means that what they receive each week, if they are not classed as living in the same household as an exempt person, will be limited.

This will have a massive impact on carers, particularly those in areas where housing costs are high, such as London. The only option for those carers may be to stop caring so much and work instead, or to move to another area – perhaps meaning they are far away from the person they care for. This makes no sense to anyone.

For people struggling to make ends meet already, these week on week reductions in income will have an extremely painful impact. Last October, at Conservative party conference George Osborne made it clear more cuts were coming so this won’t be the last.

Carers Trust will of course, be supporting the Hardest Hit campaign trying to ensure carers’ voices are heard, but it’s going to be tough. Welcome to 2013 folks.

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January 16, 2013 Posted by | Benefits, Uncategorized | , , , | 5 Comments

Further cuts to welfare benefits are an outrage

Last week saw the Carers Trust policy team wending our weary way back from Birmingham at the close of Conservative Party conference, after 3 weeks of trying to get our message across to local and national politicians and party members.

As members of the Care and Support Alliance, Carers Trust has been lobbying hard to make sure that the new Care and Support Bill promotes the rights of carers, and the draft Bill does make significant progress towards this (although there are some issues with how it affects young carers).  There were positive noises from all three parties and their three main leaders on these issues – Andy Burnham for Labour as well as Norman Lamb for the Lib Dems  and Jeremy Hunt the new Secretary of State – that this is an important issue. They all said a great deal about the importance of integrating health and social care – the holy grail we’ve been pursuing for years  – although I’m not sure any of them came up with anything which makes me confident this will be achieved.  All three said we need a cross-party approach to the future funding of social care, whether this is through  what Andrew Dilnot proposed or otherwise.  It’s too important an issue to play politics with, and I hope they will follow through with what they say.

The three conferences had very different feels to them. The Liberal Democrats, in the howling gales and rain of blustery Brighton felt a bit lost and  despondent. Labour felt more positive and confident than they have done in the last couple of years – perhaps reflecting a feeling that they are beginning to find themselves again. The Conservative feel was quite strident and very much felt like they meant to push forward.

Conservative conference for me, and anything positive that was said about how we can get services to work better for carers, was totally overshadowed by George Osborne’s speech, where  he stated the Tories’ intention to cut further swathes  of the order of £10 billion off the benefits budget.  Cameron  backed him up, and tried to make us feel like he’s just  an ordinary bloke – “There is nothing complicated about me” he said, “ I believe in working hard, caring for my family and serving my country.”

Well other people believe that too, but sometimes they can’t  work because they’re caring, or because they’re disabled, or because there aren’t any jobs. For carers,  family and friends come first, often way before their own needs. Often they can’t work because they’re putting someone else first, saving the country billions in care costs. Carers are not, as George Osborne suggested, lying in bed doing nothing expecting others to pay their way for them. It’s an insult to suggest it. 

Carers can’t live on nothing. There’s only so far you can stretch a budget, and with costs increasing the Government are even talking about not increasing benefits in line with inflation. Many people are living right at the margins already.

This is no way to treat people. Further cuts to benefits for carers and disabled people are an outrage.  

Find out more about the hardest Hit campaign against welfare benefit cuts here: http://thehardesthit.wordpress.com/

October 17, 2012 Posted by | Benefits | , , , , , | 2 Comments