Page last updated at 09:45 GMT, Saturday, 23 May 2009 10:45 UK

Call for 'better deal for carers'

Elderly man and carer
The charities say most unpaid carers do not qualify for carer benefits

Charities including Carers UK, Mencap and the Alzheimer's Society have called for a better deal for unpaid carers.

The alliance of nine organisations wants an increase in the Carer's Allowance from £53.10 a week to the state pension level of £95.25.

They also want a change in the current situation where people earning above £95 a week lose the benefit completely.

The government has set a target of 2018, by which time it says no carers should suffer financial hardship.

Ease strain

But the charities are demanding urgent action to increase Carer's Allowance and make it available to more people.

Emily Holzhausen of Carers UK: "We need action now"

The allowance is designed to help ease the strain of additional costs, working part-time or not being able to work at all because of the need to care for a loved one.

But the charities say carers do not receive enough money and that many of them are struggling to cover their outgoings.

They also say most carers do not qualify for the allowance at all because of the current rules.

People have to be caring for someone for at least 35 hours a week and earn no more than £95 a week to get the benefit.

The amount received from other benefits, including the state pension, is also deducted from the allowance.

Financial hardship

The nine charities have launched a "Carer Poverty Charter", calling upon the government to "set out an urgent timetable of action to improve carers' benefits and income".

Alzheimer's Society
Carers UK
Counsel and Care
Crossroads Caring for Carers
Every Disabled Child Matters
Princess Royal Trust for Carers

Carers UK chief executive Imelda Redmond said: "Government has promised a review of carers' benefits and pledged that by 2018 carers won't be forced into financial hardship by caring.

"Carers cannot wait. They are falling into poverty and financial hardship now, and need urgent action."

Labour MP Terry Rooney, chairman of the Commons work and pensions committee, said conditions attached to the current weekly allowance were unfair.

He said: "It's only £53 if you're caring for one or six people. With increased age longevity, you find lots and lots of cases of very elderly, usually women, who are looking after an elderly parent and an elderly disabled child.

"That just cannot be right in this day and age. We really do need to start addressing this seriously."

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: "We want to create a system of carers' benefits that is able to provide effective support where it is most needed and that can adapt to the extensive range of needs that carers have."

Your Comments:

I have been caring for my elderly mother since 2005 and was caring for my father before that. I have had to give up work to care for my mother and have only just been allowed payment of the carer's allowance which is a paltry amount. I would like to see MPs survive on £53.10 per week.

Stephen Feerick, Liverpool

I have looked after my 27 year old Downs Syndrome son Alex since I was 24. I have no savings, I have no pension, I have no job. I had to give up a teacher training course because of lack of help to care for my son. I desperately want and need to work for my self esteem and financial reasons. We cannot live on the carer's allowance and income support. I can only go back to work part time and then I would lose all my benefits. The only option would be to put my son in a care home (this would cost the government thousands of pounds). I don't want to be a martyr but I need reasonable financial help.

Jane Skilton, Harrow

Yes we need an increase in the carer's allowance - it's a disgrace that people should be getting £53 a week. I am a carer for my young daughter, and because I claim carer's allowance, it reduces the amount of tax credits I get as it is classed as a taxable income. I get carer's allowance at £53 a week but I lose £20 of that in tax credits so really people like me only really get £33 a week.

Anne, Ballymena, County Antrim

I provide constant care for my teenage child, I struggle on £53 per week. I cannot afford basic things for myself so go without. I'm depressed, lonely and poor, the government won't help me have even a basic living.

Heather, West Sussex

It is about time this matter is dealt with as many carers, like myself, struggle to make ends meet. We also feel unrecognised as what we do is not seen as employment, even though the job is often harder than most full time employed jobs. I would also like to see carers' benefits considered as non-taxable income. At the moment all the carer's benefit I receive is taken from our income support as I am unable to work due to the demands of being a carer, so we are no better off and I get nothing for doing my "job". This needs to be changed.

Graham Jennings, Droitwich Spa

I look after my elderly father. I gave up my job as he requires a lot of attention since suffering a stroke. I am 60 in the next couple of months and will lose my carer's allowance to take my OAP! I will still look after my father, who needs even more care, but I am older and finding it harder to cope every day. I won't bore you with the amount it would cost the government to pay for a nursing home for my father!

Dee, Lockerbie

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