Research: Financial pressure of caring unpaid for a loved one intensifies over time
30 November 2018
Caring unpaid for a family member or friend who is older or disabled can have stark financial implications for carers over time, research published by Carers UK, reveals.
The study shows that just two in five (44 per cent) of those caring for more than 15 years could afford their bills without struggling financially, compared with three in five (62 per cent) of carers in their first year.
Double the proportion of people caring for over 15 years have been in debt compared with those in their first year.
The number of carers in debt because of caring increases from 12 per cent of people caring for a year or less to 19 per cent of those caring between five and nine years. The proportion rises steeply to 25 per cent of those who have been caring for over 15 years.
The new research reveals how the financial hardship experienced by many carers is intensified over time with their financial resilience diminishing the longer their caring role continues. Carers looking after someone for more than ten years are having to make tougher financial decisions about cutting back on spending, borrowing money or using savings to manage.
Of carers struggling financially, 42 per cent of people caring for between 1 and 4 years are cutting back on essentials such as food and heating, rising to 50 per cent of those who have been caring for over 15 years.
Emily Holzhausen OBE, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at Carers UK said: “We know that caring unpaid for a loved one has significant financial implications for many people, with two million giving up work to care and Carer’s Allowance the lowest benefit of its kind.
“Our research shows that financial hardship worsens for carers the longer they’re caring and underlines the real need for them to have the right support and information about their rights early on, so they can best support themselves in the long-run. Carers who wish to continue or return to work should have the support to do so.
“It’s easy to miss out on the financial support available and we are urging local health and care authorities and employers to maximise early help for carers by making policies and rights to financial support clear and accessible. Carers can also make the most of our Thinking Ahead tool which helps prepare for the potential costs involved in caring for a loved one to help plan ahead.”
The research comes on Carers Rights Day - 30 November 2018 - an awareness day aimed at ensuring the nation's 6.5 million carers get the crucial information about the rights, financial support, and practical help they are entitled to.
Monday 19 November
A survey of more than 600 disabled people revealed that many raided their budgets for food, housing or heating or went into debt to pay for the basic personal support they need for day-to-day survival. Some 40% said charging had increased substantially over the last two years – often by more than half.
The research, by the Independent Living Strategy Group, uncovered wide variations between local authorities in both the amount they charge for social care support - and who they charge.
The study aimed to establish whether charging is undermining people’s wellbeing and independence – key features of social care services under the Care Act 2014. It concluded that additional stress and the need to cut back on other living essentials show that it is.
The group’s chair, Baroness Jane Campbell, said: “Support provided under the Care Act is meant to improve the wellbeing and independence of disabled people. By charging many for that support, the system is making a mockery of the spirit of the legislation and causing worry, stress and poverty.
“Charging raises a relatively small sum of money which is pushing up costs elsewhere. The financial impact of personal care neglect such as pressure sores, kidney infections or falls, as well as stress related illnesses, means finding extra resources for the NHS.
“That false economy is compounded further by the block that charging poses on integration of health and social care – the holy grail for efficiency in our care services. The money raised through means-tested charges represents only a tiny fraction of the £7 billion removed from social care budgets since 2010.”
Only 17 of the 152 councils which provide social care know how many people declined or abandoned social care packages they had been assessed as needing once they learnt how much they would have to pay.
The local authority responses to the group’s Freedom of Information request confirm that charging for basic personal support services is inefficient and counter-productive. Around 11% of the funding generated is swallowed by the cost of means-testing and writing off bad debts. The £5 million raised is just 12% of the community services budget yet it has a dramatic impact on those who pay the charges.
Although the report calls for social care charges to be scrapped (as they have been in the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham), it proposes other recommendations for the Government and local authorities if that call goes unheeded. These include:
A requirement on councils to provide clear information on how charges are calculated and the right to appeal
Councils should monitor the proportion of people who decline – or give up – care packages following a financial assessment
All councils should undertake an equality impact assessment of their charging policies
Local authorities should work with disabled people’s organisations to agree what costs and income should be included in financial assessments.
Sue Bott from Disability Rights UK said: “If councils are to persist in this iniquitous tax on disability, they must at least reintroduce some consistency and clarity to their approach. The many councils that have failed to conduct an equality impact assessment – and to monitor the numbers of disabled people driven out of the care system by charging – must also get their act together.”
You can read the report in full here.
Shocking new report on children with learning disabilities
Half aren't diagnosed in childhood; those who are won't collect their pension.
Monday 5 November
A new report published by the UCL Institute of Health Equity (IHE) shows the Government’s emphasis on ‘fairness’ and fixing a ‘broken society’ has failed, catastrophically, for hundreds of thousands of children with learning disabilities.
The IHE report A fair, Supportive Society shows the most vulnerable in society – those with learning disabilities – will die 15-20 years sooner on average than the general population – that’s 1,200 people every year.
More shocking, explains the IHE’s Director, Professor Sir Michael Marmot, is the fact that this difference is not an inevitable consequence of the underlying condition that led to the learning disability.
He said: “This is a direct result of a political choice that destines this vulnerable group to experience some of the worst of what society has to offer: low incomes, no work, poor housing, social isolation and loneliness, bullying and abuse.
“A staggering 40% of people with learning difficulties aren’t even diagnosed in childhood. This is an avoidable sign of a society failing to be fair and supportive to its most vulnerable members. We need to change this. The time to act is now.”
Read more on the Institute of Health Equity website.
Disabled passengers to keep companion bus passes
Tuesday 30 October 2018
Companion bus passes will continue to be accepted on buses in Reading for disabled passengers who have difficulty travelling alone.
The passes – which allow for free bus travel for people accompanying Access Pass holders on journeys – had been put forward as a potential budget saving by Reading Borough Council earlier this year. More than 1,300 responses were received in response to a public consultation in May when the council wrote to all of its 6,000 Access Pass holders proposing changes to the current Access Pass scheme in Reading, including the removal of companion pass element.
At a meeting of the Council’s Policy Committee on Monday 29 October Councillor Tony Page, Reading’s Lead Member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, confirmed the saving associated with the companion pass element of the Access Pass scheme would no longer be taken forward.
Responding to a question by Councillor Rachel Eden, Chair of Access & Disabilities Working Group, Councillor Page said: “The council has historically provided a more generous scheme with additional discretionary elements for both holders of the older person and disabled (Access) concessionary pass. However, like all local authorities, the council faces significant financial pressures with reduced funding from central Government, and increasing demands on its services.
“The consultation was undertaken between 25 May to 20 July and more than 1,300 responses were received.
“Initial analysis of the responses has demonstrated a clear need for the Companion Pass element of the scheme to remain, as this provides a vital lifeline for disabled residents who are unable to travel alone and rely on carers to help them get out and about. I am pleased, therefore, to announce that the council does not intend to pursue this element of the overall budget saving proposal.”
A full copy of Councillor Page’s response can be found at http://www.reading.gov.uk/article/11451/Policy-Committee-29-OCT-2018 (Item 4 – petitions and questions).
In April 2017, the council removed a number of the discretionary elements of the scheme for Older Person pass holders.
In February this year the council then agreed to consult with nearly 6,000 Access Pass Holders on a further budget saving proposal which contained three separate elements. They were to revert to the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme (ENCTS), which only permits free weekday bus travel from 9.30am until 11pm; no longer provide free travel on ReadiBus services for Access Pass holders; and no longer accept companion passes.
The companion pass element will now not be taken forward. Before a final decision is made on the remaining two elements of the proposal, further consultation will take place with holders of the Older Persons Pass who – alongside Access Pass holders – are also eligible to use ReadiBus services for free. Feedback from Older Person’s Pass Holders will then be analysed, alongside the responses already received.
A final decision on any future changes to both the Access Pass and Older Person’s Pass schemes will be taken at a future meeting of the council’s policy committee. All responses will be considered alongside the council’s financial position. Any changes to the scheme that are approved by the committee would then not come into effect until 1 April 2019.