‘I’m scared!’ Unpaid carers face ‘unsustainable’ financial stress despite DWP benefit rise

Ed Davey presses Boris Johnson on Carer's Allowance

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A recent survey conducted by Carers UK found that just under 45 percent of unpaid carers are finding it difficult to manage their financial situation. Some 46 percent of the 3,000 carers polled admitted that they believe the upcoming energy bill hike will affect their physical or mental wellbeing, or that of the individual they are looking after. Around 58 percent of those surveyed said they have already cut back on heating their home and 14 percent shared that they have already fallen back into arrears as a result.

While energy bills are expected to go up in April, so are benefit payments provided by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Carer’s Allowance, the primary benefit payment for unpaid carers, is set to rise by 3.1 percent next month.

However, many experts within the sector believe that this increase is no longer enough and are urging the Government to raise payments in line with inflation.

Carers UK is lobbying the Government to hike Carer’s Allowance in line with the current inflation forecasts for April 2022, with it being expected to hit 7.25 percent.

One unpaid carer who spoke to the charity said: “I am anxious and scared of what our living costs will be in the coming months. I’m unable to sleep and worried about surviving.”

Many unpaid carers are also sharing the types of equipment they have to use and operate on a daily basis to complete their roles.

These utilities are usually kept running on electricity and are essential for caring responsibilities, which means bills end skyrocketing as a result.

A carer explained: “Our son relies on life saving equipment which must be constant and available at all times- i.e., a hospital pressure mattress, an oxygen nebulizer, suction hoist, air conditioning, heating and so on.”

Another added: “Mum is bed bound with advanced Parkinson’s so she needs the house to be quite warm especially when she is being bed-bathed, etc. but we can’t afford to keep the heating turned up high.”

Helen Walker, the Chief Executive of Carers UK, shared what she believes this targeted support should look like going forward.

Ms Walker explained: “We are seeing unprecedented levels of stress and financial worries piled on unpaid carers.

“Many were already struggling to manage their monthly expenses before the soaring energy prices and inflation increasing the price of essentials.

“Now 45 percent of carers are unable to manage their monthly expenses.

“Many are dipping into savings, using credit cards, being pushed into debt and cutting back on essentials to keep the person they care for warm and healthy.

“They are extremely anxious about how they are going to continue to manage. Nearly half of carers think the rising energy costs will impact on their health and the health of the person they care for.”

She added: “Carers are propping up our health and care system at a huge cost to their own personal health, finances and ability to stay in work.

“Now the picture is even bleaker, with increasing costs forcing them to cut back on food, on heat, and more than ever are worried that they will be pushed into debt.”

A Government spokesperson said: “We recognise the valuable role of unpaid carers – especially during the pandemic – and remain committed to helping them financially, along with their health, wellbeing and employment chances.

“Universal Credit includes a carer’s element worth more than £160 a month and since 2010 we have increased Carer’s Allowance, putting an additional £700 a year in carers’ pockets. Those in receipt of Carer’s Allowance may be entitled to other support, including benefits.”

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