We’ve learned so much about the work of carers during this coronavirus crisis – their commitment and dedication and the value of what they do.
But there are still millions of people in the UK whose care work goes on behind closed doors. They are the unpaid carers, looking after a family member of friend who has a disability, or a mental or physical illness, or who needs extra help as they grow older.
They are also essential workers, yet they often feel undervalued and unsupported. No wonder, when Carer’s Allowance is an insulting £67.50 a week.
I’ve been in touch over the past few weeks with a mum who is the carer of her severely disabled teenage daughter. Her child can’t speak, she’s doubly incontinent and she needs constant 24-hour care. The only break her mum gets is when her daughter is at school. And she hasn’t been since lockdown started. With no other help, the family feels abandoned. Another mum told me that she feels her family is at risk of collapse due to the pressure of caring for her disabled child 24/7 without respite.
There are more than 8,000 unpaid carers in my constituency, and about 1,500 of them are providing more than 50 hours of care a week. Carers UK has found that for two thirds of them, the amount of care they give has grown significantly during the coronavirus crisis. It’s not surprising that more than half say they sometimes feel overwhelmed and are worried about burnout. That has a huge impact on their quality of life and often their own mental and physical health.
This is why Carers Week matters, and why the theme for this year is “Making Caring Visible”. It brings the work and commitment of unpaid carers out of the shadows, and gives us all a chance to recognise the contribution they make to families and communities.
It’s time we shone the spotlight on what so many people are doing to support others, not just during this crisis but always.
As a parliamentary champion for Carers Week 2020, I’ve been pushing the Government to provide more support for carers. But you can get involved too. Pledge your support for Carers Week via their website, and add your voice to the fight to make life better for carers and Make Caring Visible.
My work in Parliament for carers
I wrote to ministers about support for parents and carers of SEND children. The letter is here.
I tabled an Early Day Motion calling for increased funding for respite care, a living wage for carers rather than Carer’s Allowance, and for respite carers to be treated as skilled professionals.
I have also asked ministers about Covid testing for carers. The question and response is here.
And I have asked the All-Party Parliamentary Group of Special Educational Needs & Disabilities to host a virtual conference with some of the 4,000 carers who have participated in a survey carried out by the Disabled Children’s Partnership https://disabledchildrenspartnership.org.uk/