Unpaid carers

This motion on unpaid carers was passed at Sutton's Full Council meeting on 26 April 2021. It follows on from the motion passed at Spring Conference.

Council - 19 April 2021

Proposed by: Councillor Marian James

Seconded by: Councillor Chris Williams

Motion 6D - Unpaid Carers

Council notes that:

  • Carers UK estimates that there are 11.5 million people across the UK who give unpaid support to someone who is elderly, seriously ill or disabled; it estimates that, by doing so, unpaid carers are saving the Government £193 billion a year;
  • In Sutton one in ten adults identify as being a carer, and there are also a significant number of children taking on caring responsibilities;
  • Most unpaid carers are having to spend more time looking after loved ones during the pandemic; most haven't been able to take a single break since it started, and in June 2020 it was found that at least an additional 4.5m people have had to take on caring responsibilities due to the pandemic;
  • Millions of people juggle work with unpaid caring responsibilities, and this can be hard: every day, an estimated 640 people give up paid work altogether in order to care;
  • According to a survey by the Disability Law Service, 52 per cent of carers who apply for flexible working have their applications refused;
  • 900,000 full-time unpaid carers nationally - most of them women - rely on Carer's Allowance, which at only £67.25 a week is the lowest benefit of its kind;
  • Many carers are currently excluded from receiving Carer's Allowance, including:
    • Carers in full-time education or studying for 21 hours or more a week
    • Carers earning more than £128 a week - less than 15 hours a week on the National Living Wage
    • Carers who spend less than 35 hours per week on their caring responsibilities;
  • Thousands of carers are facing extreme financial hardship: a recent survey by Carers UK found that more than a third of those on Carer's Allowance are struggling to make ends meet; many have been struggling for months, often relying on foodbanks to

feed themselves and the people they care for;

  • In 2019 it was found that 51 per cent of carers provide at least 50 hours of care per week;
  • 63 per cent of carers also have a Disability or long term health condition themselves – sometimes as a result of their caring responsibilities.

Council believes that:

  • People who care for others - whether paid or unpaid, young or old - do a remarkable and important job; they deserve our support, but are far too often forgotten and ignored;
  • Millions of carers face big challenges every single day: many are living in poverty, many find it impossible to juggle work with caring responsibilities, and many struggle with their own physical and mental health; these challenges have been made even harder by the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • As this pandemic has reminded everyone, caring for people's health doesn't stop at the hospital exit or the GP's surgery door; we can only truly improve the NHS if we properly support carers;
  • We must do far more to support our carers; Sutton Council must stand up for carers and lead the way to a more caring society as we emerge from this pandemic;
  • Supporting carers is a vital part of building a fairer society, championing social justice and achieving gender equality;
  • It is essential that widespread reforms are enacted to better protect and support Carers, and those they care for, and for the benefit of society.

Council therefore calls on the government to:

  • Introduce paid Carer's Leave;
  • Make caring a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010;
  • Provide emergency funding for respite care so that carers can take breaks; this should replace the care provided by the carer on a 1:1 basis without any requirement for the disabled person to go into a respite care centre (unless they want to) or accept a reduction in care hours;
  • Require employers to make reasonable adjustments to enable employees with caring responsibilities to provide that care;
  • Raise Carer's Allowance by £20 a week and increase the Carer Element of Universal Credit by £20 a week, so carers' other benefits are not reduced as a result;
  • Increase the Carer Premium and Carer Addition by £20 a week as well, and providing an equivalent payment to carers who are entitled to Carer's Allowance but not receiving it, so older carers on low incomes also benefit;
  • Raise the amount carers can earn before losing Carer's Allowance from £128 to £160 a week, introduce tapering off after this point so that unpaid carers are not subject to a cliff edge removal of benefits when they try to move into employment, and reducing the number of hours' care per week required to qualify for it;
  • Provide additional funding to local authorities and relevant leisure providers to enable them to provide a package of carer benefits including access to training and support as required e.g. manual handling, first aid, dementia care and understanding their rights as a carer;
  • Make receipt of Carer’s Allowance an eligibility criterion for the Government’s Funeral Expenses Payment;
  • A commitment to move towards at least 80 per cent of referrals to Mental Health and Occupational Therapy services to be fulfilled within eight weeks and 100 per cent within 16 weeks;
  • Further reform claimant rules on carers allowance to allow people to combine the hours they care for different people in a claim and to allow for multiple people to claim Carer’s Allowance for the same person where they all meet entitlement rules.