Carers “earn” around 11% of what they could make if they took their skills into the care profession – yet they are subjected almost continually to seven of the top ten workplace stresses in looking after their loved ones.
Emma Soames, of the Saga Respite for Carers Trust, speaking during Carers Week 2010, watch video, says that government ministers have to prove their own worth by showing they're in touch with the real challenges faced by carers.
“Carers will never complain, so I’m going to have a swipe on their behalf. There’s a heck of a lot going on, but not much actually happening in Whitehall – and every day of delay is keeping carers on the edge. Carers should protest, but they’re too tired and busy saving the government something like £90 billion a year to be able to get out on the streets and in the faces of politicians – some of whom used care as a ticket into Parliament,” said Emma Soames, 60.
“Carers don’t care a fig for the money, they care about their loved one; income is not viewed in the same way as the majority of people - as some sort of competition prize or as a means to life enhancement no matter how big or small - it is viewed as a utility,” said Emma Soames.
“Taking a mean average of the various calculations on income, carers receive around £3,500 a year to look after an elderly, infirm or distressed loved one.
“Nurses, who do a stunning job, earn around £30,000 – but to my mind, some of the UK’s six million carers, who ‘work’ 24 hour ‘shifts’, are as focussed and capable as some of the highest-paid healthcare professionals who earn £60,000 and more.
“If we take recent research, then carers, for their pitiful financial support, are subject almost continuously to seven of the top ten workplace stresses: workload, feeling undervalued, the type of work they have to do, taking on other people’s work, lack of control over the working day, working long hours and frustration with the working environment.
“To date, the coalition government has failed to implement changes to support carers, choosing instead to further delay the process with yet another review.
“The disappointment is both the Tories and the Lib-Dem proposals on the run up to the election were promising, with Tories proposing to extend direct payments to help people take control of their care needs, and improved access to respite care. The Lib-Dems, however, appeared to have the most carer-friendly proposal that would look to offer a week's respite break for the estimated one million carers who spend more than 50 hours a week providing care.
“During the election campaigns, most political parties recognised the huge contribution made by the UK’s army of six million carers, but few really know what it’s like to walk in a carer’s shoes for a day.
“I’m throwing down the gauntlet to these politicians who rode into Parliament on a care ticket, and challenge them to spend time with carers to get a true appreciation of the mental and physical strain that they face on a daily basis.”
The main carers’ allowance is £53.10 per week, which equates to just £1.52 per hour for a standard 35 hour week, although many of the 6 million carers throughout the UK work well in excess of a 50 hour week.
Whilst funding is identified as a key concern for carers, one of the biggest issues is the fact that almost a quarter (24 per cent) have never taken a holiday away from their caring responsibilities. This figure rises to 31 percent among those who have been carers for more than 10 years. Despite the previous government’s commitment to provide funding for respite breaks, their failure to ring fence it has meant that in many of the Primary Care Trusts the funds are not reaching carers.
“The Saga Respite for Carers Trust is doing what government should do – provide respite breaks for long-term unpaid carers. Nominations and stories sent to the Saga Respite for Carers Trust paints a very stark picture of the lives of carers, one that shows that many are reaching the end of their tether, their own health affected by the constant stress and demands of looking after a chronically ill or disabled loved one,” said Emma Soames.
Nominations can be made on line at saga.co.uk/health/carers. The deadline for nominations to the trust is 31st August 2010. Terms apply.
Alternatively nomination forms can be obtained by writing to Saga Respite for Carers Trust , The Saga Building, Enbrook Park, Folkestone, Kent CT20 3SE.
There are in the region of 6 million Carers in the UK, split regionally as follows:
East of England 520,209
East Midlands 435,741
North East 276,593
North West 724,802
Northern Ireland 185,066
South East 737,751
South West 495,442
West Midlands 558,421
Yorkshire & The Humber 518,211