Page last updated at 16:18 GMT, Friday, 5 December 2008

Carers call for a fair allowance

Dawn and Steve Wood
Dawn Wood has MS and is cared for by her husband

Carers from Gloucestershire have handed a petition to Downing Street with more than 2000 signatures demanding a better deal and a change to their allowance.

They say the main state benefit - Carer's Allowance - of 50.55 a week is not enough for the round-the-clock support they provide to family members.

More than 70 carers also gathered in Bristol on Carer's Rights Day to meet their MPs about the issues they face.

The government are investing 255m as part of their Carers' Strategy.

'Woefully inadequate'

Jacky Martel, a carer who travelled from Gloucestershire to hand in the petition to Gordon Brown, said: "The Carer's Allowance is woefully inadequate.

"It's simply 50 a week, you have to do at least 35 hours care to get that.

"When you're 65 or when you get your pension, that stops so it's just not adequate for the amount of work people do."

A couple from Bradley Stoke near Bristol, who are supporting the campaign, spoke about their situation.

Dawn Wood, a former doctor who has multiple sclerosis and is cared for by her husband, said: "We're saving the government huge amounts of money.

"If it wasn't for carers then the government would have to pay huge amounts more."

Mrs Wood's husband, Steve, who works part-time for Axa-Sunlife, said: "I'm tired a lot of the time - I get backache pushing the wheelchair and just generally helping Dawn."

We know the government thinks that carers are not going to stop caring so hey-ho what does it really matter?
Jill Meehan - Princess Royal Trust for Carers

Jill Meehan, from the Princess Royal Trust for Carers, spoke at the Carer's Rights Day event in Bristol.

She said: "We know that we save the government 80bn a year.

"We know the government thinks that carers are not going to stop caring so hey-ho what does it really matter?

"But it does matter."

'Support system'

A spokesman from the Department of Health said: "We appreciate the personal sacrifices carers are making in order to help loved ones lead fulfilling lives even in the face of incapacity or disability.

"And we know - because they told us - that carers need support too. That is why in June 2008, the government published the Carers' Strategy.

"The strategy is backed up by an extra 255m to support carers.

"This includes 150m over two years so that carers can take short breaks, over 6m to support young carers and up to 38m to help them to enter or re-enter the job market.

"The Carers' Strategy is designed to help us secure a better support system for carers that is fit for the 21st Century and ensure carers can have a life outside of caring."

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