About bloody time.
I'm a carer. Sharon's various medical conditions are such that she has bouts of immobility. With the best will in the world, she can't get everything done before her strength and stamina give out. I may not always be around but I'm only ever a phone call or a text away. We know through experience that without somebody skimming the heavy stuff and a lot of the menial stuff from Sharon's regime she'd very quickly end up in hospital - at a cost to the taxpayer of £75 per hour. She doesn't like being in hospital, she hates being a burden and does her best not to be.
"Professional" carers working for social services or agencies get anything upwards of the minimum wage. Recently I got back to my car to find a leaflet on it offering £7 plus per hour for care staff. I LOLd. Because I'm classed as a full time carer and therefore unavailable for work, the government pay me carer's allowance of just over £50 per week plus income support of £50. You have to give at least 35 hours per week of your time for caring duties but in reality, you never stop. Even though we live apart I'm still ready to jump and I've often had to pop over long after most have gone to bed. Because I took out a crisis loan when I moved back to Crewe (I got a basic fridge-freezer and a cooker out it. They didn't think carpeting was necessary so I'm still rattling around in an echo chamber) and I still owe them £46 from my previous stint as a carer over a year ago, they make deductions. I actually only receive just over £30 per week CA. You do the maths to see my hourly rate. You're not allowed to take full-time employment or be in full-time education. Any other paid work you do you have to declare. There will be deductions for anything you earn and declare. That's fair enough, you can't care if you're working, but it's usually on a tit-for-tat basis: earn £5 and you'll be deducted same. Earn a little over the threshold and you'll be right up shit creek, back paying council tax and rent. You'll actually be worse off even though you've got a job. You'll still have to do the caring of course, that goes without saying because you do it because you love someone. Because you've earned£5 you'll actually spend hours per month making phone calls, filling out forms and visiting the Jobcentre Plus. I've been there, I know. 4 years ago I received a formal caution because I forgot to declare something during my divorce while I was still claiming CA and Income Support. It was a genuine oversight but I was made to feel like a common criminal. It's the same if you're earning over the threshold because you're still a registered carer even if they're not paying you. There is very little logic to the system and you can see how many well-meaning folk cheat just to make ends meet. The final insult from this so-called caring government is that carer's allowance is taxable. Oh yes. If you've become a carer after being a wage earner and your carer's allowance takes you over the lowest threshold, the bastards will have some of it back.
Carers aren't asking to be paid for doing what comes naturally, we just want something to give us a dignified life and to allow us to take advantage of some paid work when we're able to without being made to feel a cheat. Most of us have given up jobs to care (yes, even me. The day after I returned to Crewe to care for Sharon when her condition took a bad turn for the worst back in March, I was meant to be starting a new job as a postman in New Romney) and those jobs enabled us to have a certain quality of life. Why should I have to go without those things most people take for granted because I'm keeping someone out of hospital? I don't have a tv. I don't have a landline or the internet. My computer's broken and I can't afford to fix it. I don't have any furniture bar a second-hand 2 piece suite, bed and mattress and an old 30s wardrobe courtesy of the local Christian charity. Freecycle (the best thing on the internet) has supplied virtually everything else including my table and chairs, my microwave and most of my kitchen tools. I still have the debts I incurred as a working man to service out of that £82. Even applying for bankruptcy is a non-starter because it costs £400! I can't even afford a sodding haircut because I'd have to go without bread for two weeks! I had to laugh the other week when a women's hairdresser in town was offering savings of up to £82 a booking. Come again? This is Crewe not Chelsea. That's 16 years worth of haircuts for me. Another couple of weeks and I'll have sideburns Noddy Holder would kill for. My car tax is up at the end of September. I'm toying with the idea of getting rid but it's just not practical. I average about 60 miles a week over the year yet I'm perceived as driving a polluting gas guzzler whereas it's a ten year old Rover 600, still averaging 35mpg and pumping out less crap than most.
Dignity, that's all. Dignity and common sense.