Deputy in call for carers to be given more financial support

DEPUTY Liam McKenna has taken up the cause on behalf of unpaid carers in the States – championing an increase in the Carer’s Allowance and calling for greater recognition of the work they do.

Deputy Liam McKenna. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 29808458)
Deputy Liam McKenna. (Picture by Sophie Rabey, 29808458)

Under Rule 14, he lodged eight questions about the Carer’s Allowance to the committee president, Peter Roffey.

Deputy McKenna appeared to be seeking a reassessment of the amount of the allowance and the way it was calculated.

‘Does the president not agree that an allowance of £89.83 per week still demonstrates a very low level of appreciation and value shown by the States of Guernsey for the very significant and valuable contribution made by informal, unpaid carers to the Bailiwick?’

In his written response, Deputy Roffey said: ‘The committee is in agreement that the care provided by informal carers should be recognised and remunerated sufficiently to enable care to be provided. It [the Carer’s Allowance] does not aim to fully remunerate carers.’

According to figures quoted by Deputy Roffey, there were between 4,000-6,000 informal carers in 2016 and the value of the support provided by unpaid carers was in the region of £29m. per year to the Bailiwick.

In 2020, ESS paid out just more than £2.3m. in Carer’s Allowance and, at the end of June this year, there were 528 carers claiming it.

Deputy Roffey said the Carer’s Allowance was tax free. Carers could claim income support, where eligible, and would have access to further funds if the person they cared for claimed the Severe Disability Allowance.

In these circumstances, he said, households would retain £146.02 per week in addition to their requirement rate, including a rent allowance.

In his questions, Deputy McKenna said the Carer’s Allowance fell well short of the requirement rate used for the purposes of determining income support and he questioned whether the base, set in 1986, had ever been updated to reflect a more current time period.

Deputy Roffey said the allowance had not been rebased since it was introduced.

Guernsey Carers chairman Peter Harwood said the charity supported Deputy McKenna’s campaign to revisit the criteria for the Carer’s Allowance and the amount that should be paid.

‘The States assumes that unpaid carers don’t work or didn’t work therefore there was no loss of income in that household. Many carers have given up work or reduced their hours to care for a relative.

‘It would be safe to assume that household circumstances are quite different from when the Carer’s Allowance was introduced in 1986.’

Deputy Roffey made it clear ESS would not review the Carer’s Allowance until after the Supported Living and Ageing Well Strategy resolutions – debated in 2020 – had been implemented.

Mr Harwood explained that Slaws centred on the Long Term Care Insurance Fund.

‘The Long Term Care Insurance Fund is an important issue but it will not attribute any value to important work done by unpaid carers.’

Subsequent to his rule 14 questions, Deputy McKenna said: ‘Sons and daughters and other family members are leaving their jobs to look after vulnerable people, so why should they not receive better?

'They are taking care of a family member whilst juggling paying a mortgage and feeding a family.

‘We need to sit around a table and discuss reapplying fees and renegotiating payments because the current situation is just ridiculous.

‘There’s a lot of talk about an ageing population and concerns about care home capacity.

‘What we need is more support for carers and community nurses which could mean emptying some of those beds, allowing the most vulnerable people a place.’

‘I’m not trying to criticise – this is an anomaly and, if we think differently – outside the box, it could save the government millions, offer relief to overstretched care homes and offer the community what it deserves.

‘I’m just a voice for wonderful people who have devoted their lives to caring – these great people are in desperate need.’

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