Page last updated at 14:11 GMT, Friday, 29 August 2008 15:11 UK

Anger over 'pittance' for carers

By Andy McFarlane
BBC News

Carer pushing person in wheelchair
Carers can find life increasingly difficult as they get older
Britain's six million unpaid carers require more financial support from the government, argues a Commons committee.

One working mum, who also helps care for her mentally-ill adult son, describes her family's difficulties under the current system.

Accounts worker Kathy Slater's 40-year-old son Dean has a rare mental illness, linked to Asperger syndrome, which means he is housebound and cannot look after himself.

Together with husband Peter, 67, the 60-year-old from Coventry must cook Dean's meals, make sure he stays warm to fight off infection and keep him away from danger.

"With Dean, it's like looking after a child," said Mrs Slater.


"We have to watch out for things like making sure he doesn't turn on the gas fire because he doesn't understand that if it's not lit, the gas will just keep escaping."

Mrs Slater used to work part-time, while her husband's job in a car plant meant they could share the task of looking after Dean.

As carers we save this country thousands
Kathy Slater

After Mr Slater was made redundant five years ago, he became Dean's full-time carer.

He received Carer's Allowance until reaching retirement age, when it was withdrawn because his 112 weekly pension sent him over the 95 threshold for the benefit.

It left the family feeling angry and unappreciated.

"It's scandalous in this day and age," said Mrs Slater.

"We have always paid our taxes, never sponged off anyone and as carers we save this country thousands.

"Surely the pittance we carers are given for looking after our loved ones is needed more in old age to help with care.

"What happens if we become ill?"

Mrs Slater said the rising cost of living - and in particular fuel bills - was a concern because they needed to keep the house warm for Dean.

Rounded support

"My husband doesn't get a big pension. If we wanted to go on holiday we would have to pay a lot for Dean to be looked after. It's very difficult."

Mrs Slater wants to see the introduction of a more rounded system of support, with better nursing help in the home and more respite care.

"There's never been any care," she said.

"I can't bear to think what will happen to Dean when we can't look after him any more. It terrifies me."

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