On Carers Rights Day this year (26th November) and throughout the year we work to identify, inform and support unpaid family and friend carers in their caring role. This year's Carers Rights Day events were held online due to the coronavirus.
Among the activities we held on Zoom were discussions between unpaid carers, charity staff and two MPs – Hertford and Stortford MP Julie Marson spoke to carers in her constituency and Watford MP Dean Russell with people in his area.
Issues carers and staff raised included:
• The difficulty carers experience in getting support, including the amount of time it takes, complex and lengthy forms they have to complete, and being asked to clarify or justify requests.
• The restrictions in place to get Carer’s Allowance – such as not being able to claim if receiving a State Pension or other benefits. Carers made the point caring doesn’t stop at pension age!
• The low amount of Carer’s Allowance in comparison to other benefits and that they have received no extra help for increased fuel bills and costs during the COVID-19 pandemic. Carers are calling for the Government to increase Carer’s Allowance to match Universal Credit and for the earnings limit to be raised from £128 a week to at least £139.52 and linked to National Living Wage.
Julie Marson MP said: “There is no doubt that there are issues for people struggling with their caring responsibilities whilst trying to navigate a system which is meant to give them the support they need, but one that many carers felt was not treating them with the respect and consideration they deserve. I look forward to continuing our discussions and doing my best to support local carers and support groups in Hertford and Stortford.”
As well as the MP discussions, unpaid carers took part in:
• A workshop on money matters with the Money Advice Unit and Citizens Advice and learnt about the support they provide – advice on employment issues, housing, debt and money, help to reduce energy bills and more.
• A discussion with representatives from Hertfordshire County Council’s Adult Care Services and the NHS in the county. Carers talked about the challenges they had experienced getting support and what services could do to improve. Issues included being passed between health, social care and community services without their query or need being resolved; poor communication and lack of resources such as people they can pay to provide care; and
• An art workshop where carers drew an apple in the style of Paul Cézanne (finished work pictured below).
If you are caring for someone and would like to find out how Carers in Hertfordshire can support you in your caring role please contact the charity – email or call 01992 58 69 69.