Carers’ rights day is here once again and the irony of such a day existing is not lost upon the millions of carers both low and unpaid up and down the country. Contrary to what many carers charities would have us believe, hardly anyone in the care community knows that such a day exists, in fact nearly all of them I asked questioned the point of such a day considering that the rights we do have are either vague or worthless. I myself as a carer stumbled upon this awareness day purely by chance.
So, rights, let’s look at them. Firstly, according to the human rights act, carers and disabled people have the right not to be discriminated against or harassed. Carers have the right not to be discriminated against as a result of their caring role and “association” with a disabled person. News to many, in fact, news to me. There is of course worry over the human rights act as our justice secretary Dominic Raab is known to have a vehement opposition to it. However, judging by the fact that our human rights are so flagrantly ignored and our lives so debased by ignorance and structural poverty, these rights are already worth less than the paper they were written on.
There is also of course the care act of 2014. This little surprise of tokenism slipped under the radar and can mostly be found in the “Pipedream of obvious un-deliverability file”. The core of this was (according to the bastion of online knowledge, Wikipedia) “To overhaul existing 60-year-old social care legislation. The Care Act 2014 set out in one place, local authorities’ duties in relation to assessing people’s needs and their eligibility for publicly funded care and support.” But as we all know, local authorities are verging on bankruptcy with social services and care packages cut. The majority of local council budgets are appropriated from central Government, and as we know their will to recognise, support, and appreciate care in all its forms is virtually non-existent. The 2014 act was nothing else other than a showpiece undertaking that again made no ripples across the pond we are all currently drowning in. Local Government is being slipped the responsibility for care failure, the bill of 2014 directing the majority of obligations for care from central government to local. You must admit that this is a fiendishly brilliant if blatantly callous plan to blame-shift duty of care, to buck pass in extremis.
Now we arrive at the current social care reform bill, which is a hot political topic with the Government’s devise plans of paying for social care. I’m not going to tear into that here as the caveats are immense and as a carer, exhausted from dawn to dusk I have not the time or the will to do so. However looking through the plans, scouting the internet, and despite some investigative emails from me to various “in the loop” names, there is little if no focus in this grand plan to help the 13.6 million carers currently living hand to mouth in this supposed first world country. There is a great deal of emphasis on adult social care, rightly so, but where are the progressive ideals for parents of disabled children and young adults, young carers even? You have to imagine the thought processes involved here because to me it’s tragically obvious, the intent is hidden in plain sight; there is no intention to help and challenge unpaid and low-paid care in the UK, none, none at all.
Carers like myself are known to save the health service a phenomenal amount of money. During the covid crisis, it was estimated that unpaid and low-paid carers saved the UK health sector 193 billion pounds alone, relieving an already teetering NHS of further pressures that would have seen it implode. When you look at the savings here, would you, as an MP, as a health minister want to help us out? The truth is you would not, even though it would be ethical to do so. So why the indifference and hesitancy? Well, we are in a catch 22 scenario aren’t we, we care for our beloved family members because there is no other option. We are not going to dump them on the steps of the local hospital or stop caring, we never will, because they only have us to support them and the system exploits that fact for its own financial gain. It’s a simple if grotesque logical equation, we won’t stop caring because of duty and love and they know we won’t. They have us right where it financially suits them, we are powerless and voiceless, the bottom of the food chain, isolated and unnewsworthy, unable to rage against the machine.
The system has and always will resist to care as the financial rescue we collectively give them is a gift, a money saver, why potentially step in when they know we are caught in an ineluctable situation? To be frank, no one should be doing unpaid care work for a family member, no carer should be earning less than the minimum wage, and no carer should be taken advantage of, especially by its own Government.
Care does cost money, but even trying to seek financial assistance to our perilous existences is a system designed to frustrate. The rules dictate that a carer’s allowance is available but in order to claim it recipients cannot earn more than £128 a week from paid employment. In other words, catch-22 again. You can continue to work full time, earn a good wage, provide a home and heating for your loved one, but not be readily available to do any care. If the recipient of care is able to care for themselves to some degree in your absence, if this is a possibility then fine, but the care you give them is unpaid, unless of course, you attempt to claim carers allowance, but only if you are used to hoop-jumping, a lower standard of living and you are a fan of dire, complex, and obviously discouraging rules. In fact, carers allowance cannot be claimed if you are under 16, a slap in the face for the young carers of the nation, many of them starting a lifetime of care from 8 years old.
So what can we do in the face of such shoulder shrugging and mass capitalist apathy? Should our long days and nights feel like a problem solved when listening to Boris’ vague promise to “take steps” to help unpaid & low-paid carers get “support, advice, and respite”? Because I know, you know, even a 5-year child counseling an elderly relative at 3 in the morning knows, steps are supposed to lead to conclusions. Carers’ rights are laughable in the face of such political disdain, a day to highlight nothing and constant backward momentum is pointless. We carers only have each other, a community blighted by indifference, a community silenced by unimaginable political dismissiveness, disregard, and fear of financial investment. Our only salvation lies in the hands of greater society or the media because when the final care apocalypse, the final mental and physical collapse of over 16 million desperate and broken people happens, the only rights we will have will be the right to say: “we told you, we told you, we tried so hard to make you listen….but you didn’t care…now what?”