Politics

Cash for unpaid carers amounts to 87p a year each, say Lib Dems


Ministers have been accused of a “shocking” lack of support for unpaid carers after new analysis found that a £25m pot of money announced this week amounts to just 87p a year for each person with caring responsibilities.

The social care white paper published by health secretary Sajid Javid on Wednesday said the cash would “kick-start a change” in the services provided to support unpaid carers in England, such as respite breaks and peer group and well-being support.

Mr Javid was responding to the State of Caring report by charity Carers UK, which found that one in four unpaid carers do not have enough money to cover monthly expenses and more than half feel anxious and stressed about their finances, with average outgoings of £1,370 a year on services or equipment for the person they care for.

Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey said that the sums on offer over a three-year period were an “insulting” response to the massive sacrifices made by millions of people who have cared for disabled or ill family members and other loved ones during the pandemic and are now at “breaking point” after months without respite.

Sir Ed’s party calculated that the investment promised by Mr Javid equates to 87p a year for each of the estimated 9.6m unpaid carers in England.

And it falls well short of the £1.5bn requested by Carers UK to enable all carers to take a break this winter.

Sir Ed said: “Millions of people across the country are making huge sacrifices to look after loved ones. For the Conservative government to offer just 87p per carer is as insulting as it is short-sighted.

“Carers have been repeatedly ignored and forgotten by this Conservative government, and the lack of funding in their social care white paper is the latest shocking example.

“Unpaid carers have stepped up heroically during this pandemic. Most haven’t been able to take a break since it started. Most are simply exhausted and many are at breaking point, they deserve far more support.”

The State of Caring survey found that an additional 4.5m people became unpaid carers overnight at the outset of the first Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020, meaning that one in four of all UK adults were providing care to an older, disabled or ill relative or friend at the height of the pandemic.

While numbers have fallen as restrictions have been lifted, the charity says that increased support for carers must be at the heart of the country’s approach to recovery from the pandemic.

Covid-19 has had a “monumental” impact not only on the amount of unpaid work done by carers to look after their loved ones, but also on their relationships, mental and physical health, their paid work and finances and their emotional wellbeing, found the report, released in October.

Carers UK has estimated that the value of unpaid care provided during the Covid crisis has equated to a saving to the state of £530m for every day of the pandemic.

The charity’s chief executive Helen Walker welcomed the announcement of the £25m funding.

But she said: “Many unpaid carers tell us they are at breaking point, exhausted and on their knees after more than 18 months caring with little or no outside support right now.

“Seventy-two per cent have not had a break at all from caring since the start of the pandemic. We are concerned that there is no substantial funding to enable carers to take the breaks they desperately need. 

“We have already called on the Government to provide £1.5 billion to enable all carers to take a break this winter.”

Joe Levenson, the executive director of policy at the Carers Trust, said: “Carers Trust is pleased that the government has recognised the vital role of unpaid carers, including through the £25m set out for services that support unpaid carers.

“But we are seriously concerned that the proposals for investment set out in the white paper go nowhere near far enough to delivering the sort of generational change that our broken system so desperately needs.

“We simply cannot afford to let down millions of unpaid carers and the people they care for by underinvesting in social care reform. That’s why to ensure we’re supporting unpaid carers effectively, the funding needs to match the ambition and vision. Otherwise we risk repeating the mistakes of the past and storing up enormous problems for the future.”

The Independent has approached Mr Javid’s Department for Health and Social Care for comment.

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