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A few weeks ago Nick Clegg announced the first of a series of policies for carers. The Carer’s Bonus, £250 paid annually, on top of the Carers Allowance, for the carer to use as they see fit. The proposal sparked a lot of debate, and CarerWatch posted a strong critique of the plan. I am grateful for the opportunity to respond.Caring responsibilities can come at any time in a person’s life and can exact a heavy price in both health and wealth. About 6 in 10 of us will become carers at some point in our lives, and 45% of carers have given up work to care.The bonus idea was developed by the Liberal Democrats Ageing Society Working Group, which I chair, as part of our Age Ready Britain policy paper.The bonus would be paid annually to Carers to use as they see fit, for example as a contribution toward extra costs such as taking a break. To start with it would be set at £125, doubling to £250 no later than 2020. The Bonus is more like a direct payment to contribute to things like respite care. It is not intended to be an answer to all the financial challenges faced by Carers.This would put extra money in Carers’ hands to make their own decisions about how it can best support them. The Carer’s Bonus marks out our commitment to promoting the wellbeing of carers and is the first of a number of proposals aimed at better supporting carers that we spell out in our policy paper Age Ready Britain which will be published in September.The £250 payment would be available to around a million people based on underlying entitlement to the benefit. So, for example, pensioners who are eligible for Carers allowance but because of overlapping benefit rules do not receive it would receive the Bonus. It would start at £125 and increase year on year to £250 no later than 2020.The proposal builds on measures we have taken in Government like investing £400mn in NHS funded respite breaks, or new rights for Carers in the Care Act and Children and Families Act, and rights to flexible working.I agree with the comments about the earnings disregard and the withdrawal of the benefit when engaged in education and these are issues we address on Age Ready Britain.Thank you for the opportunity to respond.Paul
How to have your sayDuring the consultation period you can complete our online comment form.
Alternatively you can provide detailed comments on the document itself.You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to: Planning Policy and Projects Team, Brent Civic Centre, Engineers Way, Wembley, Middlesex, HA9 0FJ.The deadline for receiving your comments is 5pm on 31 July 2014.
North West London United has called for supporters of Cricklewood's diverse but united community to assemble at 113 Cricklewood Broadway from noon tomorrow. [Update from Abby on Kilburn Unemployed Google Group: It's just been posted on facebook that the S.E.A. fascists are assembling at 11.30 at Kilburn and we should be at Cricklewood in as great numbers as we can by 11.00 if possible. It wasn't possible to 'share' the post on our facebook page. Just thought I'd spread the word. See you later!"]
The community is opposing a demonstration by a small extreme right-wing group, the South East Alliance, who are returning to the area after their failed march several weeks ago. The SEA Alliance recently took down their Facebook page which had much evidence of their Islamophobia in comments and photographs and have started a new sanitised page.
Opponents remain in no doubt of their true nature and are determined that they should not disrupt and divide our community.
"In the 1980s, I worked with Stephen Nickell on employment. There was complete confusion about unemployment, its extent and its effect. My best book was Unemployment, which said you could have lower unemployment if you gave more help to unemployed people to get them into work, and made that help conditional on them trying to get work. That became the basis of the European 'Welfare to Work' approach, and Labour's New Deal."
Guest blog by CarerWatch
According to Mr Clegg, some carers experience 'an unbearable burden'. As such, under the LibDem election promise, they will receive a 'reward' paid annually to allow them to have a break. This 'reward'? £125 a year paid to those who receive carers allowance only. He suggests that ' Some carers might use the money to hire a care assistant to help them out for a week'
How out of touch are the Lib Dems?
Mr Clegg, have you ever tried to employ a care assistant for £125 a week?
Mr Clegg, have you ever tried working 24/7 and only having one week a year off? (Many carers get no breaks at all)
Mr Clegg, are you aware that many carers are not entitled to Carers Allowance
Carers do not want you to 'show our thanks and ease the pressure the nation's carers face' by giving some of us a paltry £125 a year.
Carers Allowance is paid at a rate below that of all other income replacement benefits. Consequently any annual uprating has a minimal impact and does not reflect the rise in the cost of living, reducing carers spending power year on year and increasing the income gap between carers and the rest of society.
Carers in receipt of other income replacement benefits are excluded from claiming Carers Allowance due to the overlapping benefit rule.
Carers who have previously been entitled to Carers Allowance find that this is removed on reaching retirement age causing distress and anger, this can be after decades of caring for a sick or disabled relative.
The current £102 earnings limit at which Carers Allowance is withdrawn is a disincentive for carers who could combine work and caring to contemplate work or, for those in part-time employment, to increase their hours.
The withdrawal of Carers Allowance when a carer embarks on an educational course at college or university that entails more than 21 hours study per week acts as a barrier to carers wishing to engage in education and training in order to update their skills with a view to entering or re-entering the workplace. Many financially-assisted educational courses do not have Carers Allowance on their list of qualifying benefits for reduced fees, making engaging in education unaffordable.
Correction added, thanks to Charles47 ( The blog has a mistake: the 21 hour rule is notional. If the course is for (example) 10 hours only, but the college or university calls it a full time course – you lose your Carers Allowance. So for many carers, there’s no incentive to train.)
For many carers, caring is a full-time occupation. In order to qualify for Carers Allowance, either paid or underlying, a carer must spend a minimum of 35 hours caring per week, many carers care for substantially more than the minimum 35 hours. Although not perceived as such, caring is a full-time job and can involve meeting physical needs, psychological needs and social needs, supervision, prompting, dealing with health and care services, managing finances, medication, cleaning, shopping, virtually every aspect of daily living.
Carers have no regular hours of work, have no entitlement to breaks, days off, holidays or sick leave, they are not covered by health and safety legislation and frequently suffer injury as a consequence of caring. For the majority of full-time carers employment is not an option, for those they care for, being left with strangers is not an option.
The real term reductions in Treasury funding for local authorities has resulted in tightening eligibility criteria, the closure of day centres and increased care costs, reducing the number of people able to access or afford social care. Family carers are increasingly providing the care that would have been previously been provided by the State.
All governments, past and present, have demonstrably failed to meet the financial needs of carers who do not have the option of taking up employment.
CarerWatch members believe that family carers are not an optional extra to be added on as an after thought. ALL political parties need to amend their attitude towards family carers and make some speed in deciding how to adequately fund family carers.
To this end, we strongly advise Mr Clegg and his party to go back to the drawing board.
Carers do not need half baked promises/policies that will bring about so little change for so few carers.
Time will tell what manifesto promises Labour and Conservative parties bring forth. We remember well the hustings of 2010.
Carer issues were aired more than ever, and yet there has been NO real improvements.
Watch this space