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 Call for 'better deal for carers'

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PostSubject: Call for ''better deal for carers''   Sat 23 May 2009 - 6:26

Charities including Carers UK, Mencap and the Alzheimer's Society have called for a better deal for unpaid carers.

The alliance of nine organisations wants an increase in the Carer's Allowance from £53.10 a week to the state pension level of £95.25.

They also want a change in the current situation where people earning above £95 a week lose the benefit completely.

The government has set a target of 2018, by which time it says no carers should suffer financial hardship.

Ease strain

But the charities are demanding urgent action to increase Carer's Allowance and make it available to more people.

The allowance is designed to help ease the strain of additional costs, working part-time or not being able to work at all because of the need to care for a loved one.

But the charities say carers do not receive enough money and that many of them are struggling to cover their outgoings.

They also say most carers do not qualify for the allowance at all because of the current rules.

People have to be caring for someone for at least 35 hours a week and earn no more than £95 a week to get the benefit.

The amount received from other benefits, including the state pension, is also deducted from the allowance.

Financial hardship

The nine charities have launched a "Carer Poverty Charter", calling upon the government to "set out an urgent timetable of action to improve carers' benefits and income".

Carers UK chief executive Imelda Redmond said: "Government has promised a review of carers' benefits and pledged that by 2018 carers won't be forced into financial hardship by caring.

"Carers cannot wait. They are falling into poverty and financial hardship now, and need urgent action."

Labour MP Terry Rooney, chairman of the Commons work and pensions committee, said conditions attached to the current weekly allowance were unfair.

He said: "It's only £53 if you're caring for one or six people. With increased age longevity, you find lots and lots of cases of very elderly, usually women, who are looking after an elderly parent and an elderly disabled child.

"That just cannot be right in this day and age. We really do need to start addressing this seriously."

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: "We want to create a system of carers' benefits that is able to provide effective support where it is most needed and that can adapt to the extensive range of needs that carers have."
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