3 Feb 2014

Benefit reforms could push full-time carers into debt and food poverty

In many ways, the army of carers looking after their disabled, elderly or seriously ill relatives epitomise what David Cameron means by Big Society. They are – day in day out – helping take some of the burden that would otherwise fall to local authorities, the NHS or central Government.

Yet a detailed analysis by the charity, Carers UK, reveals that over the next four years they are facing a £1bn cut to financial help. This, the charity says, is pushing them into debt, arrears and food poverty.

There are around 6.5 million carers in the UK – 58 per cent are women and 42 per cent are men. The charity estimates that they save the economy £119 billion a year – an average of £18,473 for every carer.

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Now, following a year-long investigation into the cost of caring for an older or disabled relative, the charity says cuts to the financial support of full-time carers between 2011 and 2018 include:

Carer’s allowance: £175.63m cut
24,457 fewer entitled to the carer’s allowance with implementation of the Personal Independence Payment.

Bedroom tax: £150.70m cut
At least 40,000 carers to see rent support cut by over £700 a year because of the housing benefit ‘spare room’ changes.

Benefit cap: £72.4m cut
At least 2,946 carers to see incomes capped, losing an average of £105 a week.

Inflation switch: £421.91m cut
Dramatic devaluing of the carer’s allowance by 2018 with the switch from the Retail Prices Index to the Consumer Prices Index.

Real-terms cut to Help For Poorest: £76.94m cut
350,000 worst-off carers hit by means-tested benefits freeze.

Council tax support: £170.34m cut
Over 240,000 carers face additional council tax charges following the scrapping of the council tax benefit.

Helena Herklots, chief executive of Carers UK, said: “These are families already struggling to make ends meet, often having been forced to quit work to care full-time for ill or disabeld love ones.

“Now they face even greater hardship as cuts to disability benefits kick in and start to strip even more carers of their allowances. By pushng the nation’s carers to financial breaking point, the government is undermining our families’ ability to care for each other.”

The charity accuses the government of ‘hitting’ the carers by benefit cuts which are designed to move people into work and penalise those who are ‘not contributing to society’.

The realities facing full-time carers

Eleanor Condron, of Colne in Lancashire, cares for her partner Simon Carter, who has Type 1 diabetes and is a paraplegic following a serious motorbike accident seven years ago. Simon is a paralysed from the ribcage down, he needs a wheelchair and needs constant care. Eleanor was working as a special needs teaching assistant and tried initially to combine work and caring but it eventually became impossible.

03_wheelchair_g_wCaring is full-time for Eleanor and they had no support from care services for seven years, and have only got some help from care workers recently when Simon’s condition deteriorated. They were also moved between different social housing accommodation until four years ago, when they were placed in an adapted two bedroom bungalow which has been further adapted for them.

Simon sleeps in a hospital bed, so they can’t share, but Eleanor has a small bed pushed up against the wall in their room as she has to be there throughout the night in case he has a seizure, ‘autonomic dysreflexia’ (dangerous hypertension common with spinal cord injuries), or needs changing or toileting. There is no other space in the room because of her bed and the space needed around his bed to allow him to get out of his wheelchair and to enable Eleanor to lift and care for him. Their second bedroom houses their other furniture and equipment like his wheelchair.

Yet they are being told this room is spare and are having to find £46 a month, over £550 a year, as their housing benefit is cut because of the size criteria ‘bedroom tax’ changes, the switch from RPI to CPI that will leave them hundreds of pounds worse off by 2018, the means tested benefits 1 per cent freeze, and the possible loss of disability benefits and Eleanor’s carer’s allowance as a result of the introduction of the new Personal Independence Payment. They already feel isolated by Simon’s disability and the cost pressures on them – ‘stuck in the same four walls’ and rarely able to get out of the house.

They point to the changes to disability living allowance which is to be replaced by personal independence payment. The government’s own impact assessments indicate that there will be a reduction in disability benefits which will, in turn, mean a reduction in the allowance the carer receives. In fact, Carers UK believes that as a result of the introduction of PIP, about 24,457 fewer carers will receive this allowance.

A DWP spokesperson said: “We recognise that carers provide an invaluable service to people in some of the most vulnerable circumstances in our communities.  That’s why we’re spending around £2bn this year on carer’s allowance, and even more in the future.

“Universal credit will ensure that those carers on low incomes receive the support they need by allowing them to keep more of their own money as they move into work.  It will also give carers more flexibility if they need to take a break.

“The greater simplicity of universal credit will also help substantially increase the take-up of currently unclaimed benefits, especially among those at the lower end of the income distribution.”

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25 reader comments

  1. Philip says:

    Do carers & the people they are caring for vote? I guess – from the appalling coalition treatment of them – not in any great numbers. The most effective thing Carers UK could do is to meet each of the relevant political parties & see what promises they can extract from them – on the basis that they will inform their members of their responses and will be organising themselves to get as many carers & the people they care for (as far as possible) out to vote. The benefit system has been stingy with carers at the best of times. What is happening now is both vindictive & utterly stupid…short term savings which will end up with more cost being landed on the state a few months/years down the track.

    1. Kevin says:

      The cuts are needed. We cannot afford to pay disabled people money, they should be in work. I have worked all my life and paid tax and NI for the last 40 years. My wife is disabled but she works. We don’t claim anything off the state. My son was unemployed for a year, we kept him, he didn’t claim UB. George Osborne and Liam Duncan Smith are the best men for the job. Men with gutts!

      1. Simon Carter says:

        Dear Kevin. I am Simon from the article.
        I also have worked/served and paid my own way even survived without benefits between jobs. Unfortunately this is not possible anymore and I am not in anyway capable of returning to employment.
        The last seven years have been a a real struggle, living in sub standard housing, sub standard wheelchairs (5 in 6yrs), my partner has been receiving £55 per week for 6yrs for taking care of me. We have recently asked for some help to have carer’s to look after me and this will cost £25K per annum.
        I understand why the government need to toughen up but we aren’t all professional dole dosser’s. Treating people with a blanket view is inconsiderate/ignorant and very Con-Dem’d
        Regards Simon

      2. mark says:

        Bully for you, but many employers will not employ disabled people due to cost and illness implication. Many disabled people in ill health are hardly able to leave the house let alone work.

  2. Philip Edwards says:

    Victoria,

    These are not “reforms.”

    They are CUTS designed to create more misery. It’s what tories do.

    Can we please get it right?

  3. Karen Adams says:

    You don’t mention the Carers Bill being able to charge carers for a break in providing care.

  4. eileen grace says:

    The government doesn’t care why a person claims benefits, they just want to get the bill down. Add to that the cuts to social services depts + the nhs + we can see where all this is heading. It’s totally inhumane but I don’t think they give ATOS(s)

  5. ned kelly says:

    this social cleaning of the sick and disabled is fitting of Adolf Hitler’s “useless eaters policy”, Action T4 (German: Aktion T4).

    while mp’s get an 11% rise and claim expenses running into thousands of pounds, some even claim for their children, as £100,000+ a year of public money isn’t quite enough!

    1. Lauren says:

      So true, it`s sickening.

  6. Ian Thatcher says:

    It is remarkable if predictable how government spokespeople always claim how wonderful everything is while the charities and people on the ground with lived experience and expertise provide a completely different account. Two nations getting further apart.

  7. Donald john macdonald says:

    These changes if implemented will be punitive. We are a civilised people and must protest against them. Anyone who considers this fair should examine their conscience and make a good act of contrition.

  8. Martin Egan says:

    I have to hand it to the vuggers, they have done exactly what they said they would do and even a bit more. Alarmingly most people still have no clue just how close to faschism the ‘Camellegg’ crowd have brought us. This is all down to the tory toss of ideology, we are still a very wealthy nation – no need for any of these cuts – or the need to return us to Victorian workhouses !
    Please people stand up, fight back, protest with mass strikes etc. I say this as someone who made the difficult committment to look after both my parents at the end of their lives and am still trying to rebuild my own having just turned 60.

  9. Darren Eves says:

    I’d like to know where the figure 6.5 millon comes from, although I am a carer I also know maths, there are 60 million people in the uk, from this figure we can estimate 30 million households max which means that 20% of all households have a carer? 30 million is a little high as it doesn’t take into account multi-child families and single person households. Sounds to me like someone has extrapolated a small area sample…….

  10. lisa mcculloch says:

    its just heartbreaking I have been a carer for 23 years and even thought my husband work we live a hand to mouth existence its such a hard thing to do at the best of times but when you lay awake worrying how you are going to pay bils makes life unbearable at times.

  11. barry says:

    but they can help people overseas donating mill but they cant help their own shame on you david cameron just remember next year when you want our vote you wont get it of me that’s for sure help the disable its not there fault

  12. Marilyn Kick says:

    “Universal credit will ensure that those carers on low incomes will receive the support they need
    by allowing them to keep more of own money as they move into work.”

    What’s the matter with these heartless b$%*%$$s do they think the disabled people are miraculously going to be able to work, and the people who love them and willingly give up their time, are going to abandon them.

    Please can someone tell me what is happening in this country when the powers that be target the most helpless in the community .

  13. Pat says:

    I had to give up an extremely well paid job 3 years ago to care for my mother and husband who both had cancer.My Mum died My husband survived with greatly reduced mobility mental aptitude emphycema etc.I get £54.90 a week.We don’t get any benefits at all and no help with council tax etc.We have had to move to a rented flat as we couldn’t afford to stay in our bungalow.We get no help with the rent or Council tax etc.Where is the benefit system for genuine people when you need them????

  14. Caroline Alexander says:

    The government know full well we will not just abandon the people we care for, that’s why they do what they do, because they can, as motorists are sitting targets , in the same way so are careers, my 17 year old daughter who has multiple disabilities now goes to college to supposedly learn independence skills, the government will have done there sums and decided it is cheaper to make special needs children stay in education, than a parent saying “I work u need to put a care plan in place “.the government know exactly what they r doing, shame on David Cameron you had a a disabled child of your own,but then it’s very different when u have nannies and god knows who else to do the “care” for you, walk in our shoes then find out how it really feels. My daughter is incontinent, has been at college since last sept, three times I have told them she needs her pad changed more than once when she is out of the house for 8 and a half hours, so now came home in the same pad that she went it, the college apologised and said they r short staffed, that is the disgusting country we now live in, shame on every mp and the so called care industry of this disgusting country, my daughter sat in urine and blood(had her period) for almost ten hours, they know we will not abandon our loved ones, there r a lot of people getting paid a lot of money to “care” it’s certainly not us

  15. john beare says:

    i have always voted conservative , but through the stress these reforms have caused my disabled wife ( regularly having to fill forms in cuts in benefits ) i will never vote for them again , nor will i vote labour or lib dem , i personally think the monster raving loony party would make just as good a goverment , and be more open and honest , failing that the next best thing is leave this country

  16. Chris Carvell says:

    These Tory toffs and fascist bureaucrats of New “Labour” should be wiped away like the lying cheating evil dirt they are.

  17. Gillian Mushens says:

    The tory toffs and their allies do not care about carers since they are all miliionaires. They have never had to endure heating or eating when there is no money since the cost of living went up, food costs have gone up, travel has gone up.

    It is about time they became long-term carers themselves and see how difficult the job. The flooding fiasco, shows how out of touch they are with reality. If you live in the North forget any help, they are only interested in those living south of Watford.

    About time they had a taste of their own medicine, abolish the 40% tax, tax millionaires, bankers, those bankers who get fat bonuses and those in the NHS. Experience what it is like to be homeless with very jobs or money and admit that you have failed the elderly, vulnerable, in fact all of British society.

    Abolish the House of Commons, Lords, councils, have businessmen run it instead, cost less and would be more viable, since most businessmen know poverty and financial hardship.

    I am owed £30000 for unpaid care and loss of earnings and I intend to get it one way or another. Our local council is charging the elderly for services, all of them should resign now, no need for a general election, the country is in a mess, nationalise banks, gas, electricity, water,
    quangos, schisters and save a fortune. Go back to old fashioned values.

    See who has the most money and fattest wallet.

  18. John Pearson says:

    They say football is a game of two halves – well our life has been one of two halves. The first 30 years, my wife and I both had successful careers – the last 30+ years we have cared for our severely disabled son and also for over 16 years looked after my 90 y/o mother-in-law who has advanced Dementia. We are both now over 65 and have our own health problems caused in the main, by the physical and psychological strain of being “sandwich carers”.
    Both our son and his grandmother are now in residential care and as far as the government are concerned we have served our purpose and apart from the state pension & a bus pass they no longer have any further obligations to us!
    We both intelligent and hardworking people, but have to battle with bureaucracy and injustice throughout our carer roles.
    This government have put access to justice beyond the reach of most people by introducing draconian restrictions on legal aid (aka reforms). We have been forced to sell our home in order to clear the debts we have incurred.
    We feel that carers are the victims of a form of institutional abuse by government and in particular overpaid and under talented local government officials.
    Ian Duncan Smith (one of our ex-future leaders) has adopted a pious and fanatical fervour in his pursuit of benefit reforms.
    His Department has vigorously “spun” the benefit cheats/scroungers message which gives a totally misleading picture of the actual percentage that fraud represents in the overall benefit`s budget spend.
    The Conservatives have certainly regained there crown as the “nasty” party and proved that they have a problem relating to the needs of ordinary people.
    These “cuts” disguised as “reforms” represent short term thinking – the carers of today will be the cared for of tomorrow.
    By not providing enough support or recognition for unpaid family carers is just stacking up another serious problem alongside our aging population in the not too distant future.
    What happened to the “big society” Mr Cameron referred to in his pre-election mantra?

  19. Jacqueline wild says:

    What’s a matter with this government treating disabled and carers like this dont understand David Cameron making these benefit cuts when he of all people should know how hard it is caring for a disabled person he had a disabled child himself it’s hard enough without struggleing for money as well shame on them.

  20. david says:

    will you sign it?

    Click this link to sign the petition:
    https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/114355/sponsors/SlvJCB4UrsuG54eoQgNq

    My petition:

    Increase carer allowance up to £100 pounds weekly

    carers seem to get brushed under the carpet by the government. Lots of stories about people’s lives dominated by the carers role but zero action or help.

    Carers should receive free prescription and free dental.And receive £100 pounds a week .carers save billions for nhs and the government exchequer .Carers should be recognised of the hard job they have and giving the time to patients etc.Carers should get more money for the job they do,which will help them in there needs.So let’s hear it for the carers who contribute so much to the economy, who sustain our NHS and society itself, and have yet to hear this understood, valued or recognised

    Click this link to sign the petition:

  21. Frank says:

    Sadly while charities like Carers UK do highlight the issues facing vulnerable families, despite charities’ huge staff numbers and funding they actually have very little impact on government thinking. When it comes to the crunch as ever it’s down to individual carers to fight our own corner

Comments are closed.