Elderly carers tell Katie Grant of their anger and despair at being stripped of their Carerâ€™s Allowance when they reach pension age. Older carers save the state an estimated Â£15bn per year â€“ but when they appeal for the Â£62.70 per week benefit â€˜nobody wants to knowâ€™
Elderly carers have expressed their â€œdisgustâ€ at being stripped of an â€œessentialâ€ benefit once they reach pension age and are calling on the Government to recognise their contribution to society â€“ and the economy.
Carers in the UK can be eligible to receive Â£62.70 per week Carerâ€™s Allowance if they look after somebody else for at least 35 hours per week.
However, while there is no upper age limit for claiming Carerâ€™s Allowance, carers are not permitted to receive the full amount of both this and their state pension simultaneously as the two are classed as â€œoverlapping benefitsâ€, the charity Carerâ€™s UK has pointed out.
If a person is receiving Carerâ€™s Allowance when they reach retirement age and their state pension is greater than this amount, then the benefit will be stopped. If their state pension is less than their Carerâ€™s Allowance they can get the difference paid in Carerâ€™s Allowance.
â€˜I turned 65 the day the letter cameâ€™
Colin, 66, lives in Herefordshire with his wife of 42 years, Heather, who has fibromyalgia, a long-term condition that causes pain all over the body.
The former RAF flight assistant, who asked that his full name not be published, was stunned to be informed that he would no longer receive his Carerâ€™s Allowance when he reached retirement age.
â€œThe day I turned 65 the letter came,â€ he says.
Heather, who is also 66, is reliant on Colin to do everything for her, from helping her to shower and cutting her toenails, to massaging her legs and administering medicine, as well as cooking, cleaning and taking her to medical appointments.
But his contribution â€œtaken for grantedâ€ by the Government, he says.
â€œI think itâ€™s disgustingâ€¦I worked from 15 to 65 and Iâ€™m struggling financially,â€ he adds.
Money is tight â€“ so much so that even purchasing the appropriate food for Heather (itâ€™s essential that she maintains a healthy weight) is growing increasingly difficult.
The couple, who have three surviving adult children â€“ their son died last year aged 37 â€“ and five grandchildren, are struggling to scrape the money together to buy a reclining chair for Heather â€“ her current one is on its last legs.
â€œ[Carers are] saving the Government billions. That Â£63 a week can make a differenceâ€¦I rang the DWP [and] they didnâ€™t want to know,â€ Colin says.
Asked to describe his feelings about being refused Carerâ€™s Allowance he hesitates. â€œI couldnâ€™t. You couldnâ€™t print it,â€ he explains.
Colin is one of countless carers up and down the country in this position.
â€œIf everyone who was a carer took their partner or child to the local hospital and said, â€˜Look after them for 24 hours, this country would stop,â€ he says.
Whatâ€™s the solution? Itâ€™s simple, Colin says: â€œMoney.â€ For pensioners like him, Â£62.70 per week would be a good start. But, he adds: â€œNobody wants to know. Nobody cares.â€
Another male pensioner, who asked to be known only as David (not his real name), cared full time for his wife for 26 years until she passed away in 2012.
Davidâ€™s wife Moira (also a pseudonym), suffered from severe rheumatoid arthritis over most of her body and lived with â€œterrible painâ€, though was an â€œinspirationâ€ to her husband.
â€œI did get a little help [financially] until I received my pension, then that stopped,â€ says David.
â€œItâ€™s damned unfairâ€¦ you should get your pension and Carerâ€™s Allowance. Youâ€™ve paid in and youâ€™re saving the state an absolute fortune by being a fulltime carer.â€
The couple, who lived together in Cornwall, celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary the year before Moira died.
David does not expect any praise for the care he gave Moira â€“ â€œI loved my wife dearly,â€ he says â€“ but he believes the Government is taking advantage of the huge number of â€œhiddenâ€ workers.
â€œEverybody in power knows whatâ€™s going on,â€ he says. â€œIf they had any conscience at all theyâ€™d correct that anomaly.â€
Emily Holzhausen, director of policy at Carers UK, said: â€œOlder carers make a huge contribution to our society estimated to be worth Â£15 billion a year, and those aged over 65 years old are now the fastest growing group of carers.
She added: â€œSufficient and sustainable funding for health and care services is urgently needed to give older carers the support they need.
â€œThe Government should also review how the contribution of older carers can be better recognised in the social security system.â€
The DWP said in a statement: â€œCarerâ€™s make a huge contribution to society.
â€œCarerâ€™s Allowance and State Pension are both designed to replace income and we pay the higher of the two amounts to carers of State Pension age.â€
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