A determined coalition of 94 charities and organisations has joined forces to alleviate the financial hardships faced by millions of unpaid carers throughout the UK.
The Carer Poverty Coalition, comprised of charities and local organisations, seeks to raise awareness of carer poverty and the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on unpaid carers, as well as to enhance the minimal financial assistance available to them.
The coalition will also consider what caretakers require to continue working while caring for others for as long as feasible.
Carers UK, the national organisation that supports and represents anyone with unpaid care responsibilities for someone with a disability, disease, mental health problem, or who need additional assistance as they age, is leading the group.
According to a Carers UK study released last autumn, one in every four carers (25%) was cutting back on food or heating to make ends meet during the cost-of-living crisis, rising to 35% of those receiving Carer’s Allowance – the main benefit of £69.70 per week for those caring 35 hours or more per week.
Food banks were also used by a considerable number of carers, accounting for 8% of those receiving Carer’s Allowance. According to new figures, almost one million people in England get Carer’s Allowance.
The organisation is advocating for a benefits system that better supports those who provide significant amounts of unpaid care, as well as measures that will allow carers to continue in paid job for extended periods of time while caring.
A small steering committee of current and recently past unpaid carers provides guidance and feedback on significant policies and goals.
On behalf of the Carer Poverty Coalition, Helen Walker of Carers UK said: “Everyday across the UK the work of unpaid carers helps hold society together – however, providing care to family and friends limits their ability to earn a full income and adds extra costs and strain that they would not otherwise have.
“Too often, due to a lack of recognition and support, unpaid carers end up falling into poverty or find themselves in precarious financial positions as a direct result of their caring role.
“As a coalition, we believe carers deserve better. There is a clear moral as well as economic argument for supporting unpaid carers to live on a decent income and for supporting those able to continue with paid work whilst caring to stay in work. We hope Government and policy makers will see this too.”
Abby Jitendra, Principal Policy Adviser at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said: “Caring for a family member or a loved one shouldn’t leave you locked in poverty, but at the moment far too many of the over 4 million unpaid carers in the UK are being left without the support they need.
“It’s not right that 29% of unpaid carers are living in poverty, a significantly higher rate than those without caring responsibilities, and the gap is getting wider.
“The act of caring is hugely valuable to us as a society and to the people being cared for but this isn’t reflected by our social security system, which should be ensuring that nobody has to go without essentials. Carers deserve better and as a nation we must do better, which is why this coalition is so important.”
Chris James, Director of External Affairs at Motor Neurone Disease Association, said: “Unpaid carers play a crucial role in society, but their contribution too often goes unrecognised and, in many cases, leads to financial hardship.
“In a recent survey, we found around half of carers of people living with MND have faced financial difficulty as a result of their caring role. That’s a worry they should not have to be dealing with at such a difficult time.
“Carers make great sacrifices to provide care and support to their loved ones – they in turn need support. That’s why the MND Association has joined forces with 90 organisations to call on the government for carers to receive improved financial support and more opportunities to remain in work.”