Well that’s interesting.
In the High Court yesterday a senior judge determined that Iain Duncan Smith had discriminated against two disabled people by applying the benefits cap to their carers.
The judge who ruled that this was discriminatory when applied to carers doing 35 hours or more of care every week said: “To describe a household where care was being provided for at least 35 hours a week as ‘workless’ was somewhat offensive. To care for a seriously disabled person is difficult and burdensome and could properly be regarded as work.”
You don’t say!
Of course it’s work. There can be no argument about this.
If the family members who are acting as carers weren’t there then carers from agencies and Social Services would have to do the caring and they would be paid a wage for performing these tasks. Just because a family member is doing the work does not change the nature of what needs to be done. A disabled person who needs help with having a bath is not going to need any less or more help depending on who is doing the helping. The work involved in helping that disabled person is always the same whenever they have a bath, whoever is doing the helping. Caring for a disabled person is hard work and is , largely, a thankless task. The money paid as Carers’ Allowance to these dedicated carers is derisory.
This got me thinking.
Could this judgement be used, legally, as justification for Carer’s Allowance needing to be raised to the same amount as someone would be paid as a minimum wage for a 35 hour week instead of the paltry amount it is at present? If, legally, a family carer is in ‘paid’ employment then surely the law states that they should be paid at at least the minimum wage for the work they do. And, if the pay that the family carer is receiving is their Welfare Benefit payment, namely, their Carers’ Allowance, then doesn’t that pay have to be at the same minimum wage rate that an agency or Social Services carer would receive for the same work? I am unable to see an reason why this should not be the case. I believe Iain Duncan Smith is on very shaky ground trying to say that a family carer’s work is of less value than that of a paid carer.
On top of this, family carers are also saving the Government so much money.
If a disabled person receives their care through Social Services or an agency then, as well as the salary that is paid to the carer, there will be administrative costs as well. There are no admin costs for family carers so they are still cheaper. Surely the benefit payment they receive should be higher than it is at present to reflect this. The Government will still save money if benefit rates are in increased, just not as much.
I would like to congratulate the judge in the discrimination case for understanding what being a carer means, how difficult a role it is. Iain Duncan Smith, needs to take note of this ruling and make things fairer. The Government keep on insisting they want people to work their way out of poverty but family carers can’t do this. They can’t work longer hours, their benefit won’t go up. They can’t take a second job, benefit rules preclude this. They can’t go on strike. Carers need to be paid properly for what they do. If the law states that carers should be regarded as being in full-time work then these wonderful people should receive a proper wage for this work.
The Government must ensure Carers Allowance is adequate recompense for the role that has been undertaken, not he miserly pocket money that it is at present. Take the financial stress and the worry away from carers and disabled people alike. Recognise the work that is done, recognise how hard it is, recognise how demanding it is, don’t just dismiss it. Acknowledge that family carers are workers just like all other employed people. Allow carers to live and not just exist. Raise the rate to at least minimum wage levels.
Caring is job, not a hobby and welfare benefits for carers should reflect this. Raise the rate.