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Carers left to pick up burden of welfare cuts, report warns

Cuts to welfare benefits since 2010 will increase the burden on local charities and carers, a new report from the New Economics Foundation warns. Changes to the benefits system, alongside continued cuts to public services will add to an already dangerous situation of high inflation and unemployment. 

The following passage, taken from “Everyday Insecurity: Life at the end of the welfare state”, published yesterday by the NEF,  spells out the additional burden that could fall onto carers:

 

‘Counted on, but never counted

Cuts to public services and welfare reform also risk placing an unsustainable burden of care on individuals and families who, more and more, have to step in and look after children and relatives at the same time as doing paid work. As formal support is withdrawn while demand for care rises it is likely that a growing strain will be placed on the core economy (see box), with women most likely to be left picking up the pieces.

 

200,000 couples will lose up to £74.34 a week in working tax credits

 

With cuts to social care services and reductions in benefits and tax credits for carers and parents, the formal infrastructure of support that used to help people balance paid and unpaid work has been substantially reduced for many, and removed entirely for some. This is most apparent in the numbers of people who are now giving up paid positions in order to care full time for their relatives. In the UK one in seven paid employees is a carer, and one in six people who juggle paid and unpaid work are now reducing their paid hours or giving up their jobs altogether. Carers often pay for the care needs of the person they care for out of their own incomes, and over half of all carers in the UK are in debt because of their caring responsibilities. Fifty two per cent of carers cut back on food to make ends meet. As social care budgets are reduced this can only get worse. It is likely to force more and more carers out of paid work and into increasingly insecure caring roles.

 

Similar difficulties face working parents with young children. Over the last twenty years much emphasis has been placed on the need for affordable, local childcare  and other support mechanisms (such as tax credits) to enable parents to work while raising young children. Today, changes to child care contributions made by the government, most notably through reductions to the child care element of the working tax credit, and cuts to child care provision locally (Haringey for example no longer offer publicly funded child care), mean that parents must rely on, and pay more for, increasingly expensive private child care. This will require difficult decisions about whether either or both parents can continue to work full time or at all.

 

In all likelihood it is women who will end up doing the bulk of this care work. Women still do two hours more unpaid work a day than men; mothers take on as much as three-quarters of childcare during the working week. Women are also the main recipients of Carer’s Allowance, making up almost three quarters of all claimants. Unsurprisingly, women are more likely to fall into the ‘sandwiched carer’ category, juggling paid work alongside responsibilities for their children and elderly relatives. For many, an immediate effect of this added burden is the emotional stress, decreased well-being and financial impact of added caring responsibilities. At a more systemic level, as the Fawcett Society warns, a potential knock-on effect of this “will be to limit women’s opportunities to work and engage fully in public and political life – including positions of power and influence ”.

 

The cuts to public spending and welfare are increasing the pressure on the core economy. This strain places an additional burden on many families who are already struggling to cope, and will reduce the time and resources people have to maintain a good quality of life. It will also intensify existing social inequalities between people, places and communities by making welfare dependent of personal resources and time, neither of which are equitably distributed across society. Areas such as Haringey and Birmingham, which are among the most income deprived in England, will be particularly hard hit. To support and grow the core economy, employment policies, income support, childcare and family support must be re-shaped so that they complement, value and nurture human and social resources, instead of undervaluing and undermining them.

 

800,000 elderly people in need of care currently go without any formal support’

 

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