Spring Statement 2022: perspective of an unpaid carer

Yesterday, 23rd March 2022, Rishi Sunak delivered his Spring Statement 2022. It included a 5p cut in fuel duty and a rise in the National Insurance threshold by £3,000. But what caught my eye, on a personal note, was the lack of support for unpaid carers.

I have been looking after my grandfather now for nearly 2 years, in that time receiving £270 a month for my work. Now, I don’t begrudge looking after my grandfather as I want to keep him alive and well for as long as possible; my parents, grandparents and I have always lived in the same house together since I was born, so it’s always felt like having a second set of parents for me.

But something that I can’t ignore is the way this government has consistently ignored unpaid carers. Sunak has so far delivered 3 budgets as Chancellor, with no help or support given to us. The gap between the government’s perception of reality, and reality itself, is widening week-on-week. Amid a cost of living crisis, they think £270 a month is enough to cover rising bills – that’s let not forget, have increased due to their own lack of economic intervention – and then go as far as to expect us to be grateful?

Caring for my grandfather is a privilege, as I know I’m playing an important role in maintaining his health and well-being. But caring comes at a cost; adding to my already fragile mental health through 24/7 worrying, sacrificing 2 years of my life to pick up where this government has failed. And on that very point, this government assumes we only care for loved ones 5 hours a day, as we’re paid for 35 hours a week.

This only confirms my belief that this government has lost touch with reality, as anyone who is, or has been an unpaid carer knows, you work well beyond the recommended working hours. If you take the carer’s allowance monthly rate and break it down into an hourly wage, it’s £1.93 – incredibly poor, but it’s apparently justified as “it’s only 5 hours work”. Break it down across how long an unpaid carer ACTUALLY works, however, and we’re on 40p an hour. Again, this is not a “5-hour job”, this is a 24/7 commitment. I can’t help but feel like this is the government’s way of saying “for all the years your grandfather worked, putting his all into contributing to the economy and building a life for his family, this is what he’s worth in terms of care”.

I find myself asking “does this government actually care about us?”, with what feels like a blatant disregard for the hardships being placed upon the poorest in society, then going an extra step to throw such little money to unpaid carers, expecting us to survive on so little while the likes of the Prime Minister stand at the dispatch box, proclaiming we are a “world-beating nation”.

Unpaid carers have saved the government millions of pounds in having to invest in the NHS, by giving up careers and education opportunities, choosing to care for our loved ones instead.

And what do we receive in return?

“It’s only 5 hours work”.

* Jack Meredith is a Welsh Liberal Democrat member.

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2 Comments

  • It’s difficult to comment on this rather sensitive subject, but a British/Pakistani friend once told me that British attitudes towards elderly family members would baffle people in Pakistan. There, state welfare provision is minimal, and people take responsibility for those in the community who need help – including non-family neighbours. I have great sympathy with Jack’s predicament, but he raises a point worth debating when he says people have to pick up “where the government has failed”.
    One of the many things we need to properly understand about care for the elderly, and funding it, is who has failed whom when that care is not available, and whose responsibility it really is to provide it.

  • Well done Jack. That’s a terrific article.

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