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Who's Counting Carers?

Author: Robert Kay

Robert Kay expresses his anger at the constant failure to respect or even remember the existence of 7 million unpaid carers amidst the COVID-19 Crisis.

I must say I was dismayed to read an article in The Guardian by Dr Rachel Clarke which talked about protecting and rewarding paid carers, but never even mentioned the existence of unpaid carers.

I'm a carer too: but an unpaid one: I care for my son, aged 25, who is high risk: having Down Syndrome, Autism and Diabetes T1: amongst other things.

I used to get a pitiful Carers Allowance of £74 each week in Scotland (only £67.25 a week in England) in return for caring at least 16 hours a day around the clock, but when I reached state retirement age in 2018, the DWP took that away from me. I do get the basic State Pension, that I have contributed to all my life through my 40+ years NI contributions as a worker but nobody appears interested in the fact that my whole life is still dominated by the need to keep my son healthy and alive.

That's a real job and a tough one. But no Spitfire fly-pasts for me. No pots and pans. No heroic graffitti or memes on social media. And no PPE either: I'll be the last in the line for that.

"Hancock may have offered Britain’s 1.5 million carers a badge recently, yet two-thirds of them are paid the minimum wage, with many on punitive zero-hours contracts. How convenient that now, with the spotlight on their vital work, their poverty wages are being augmented by lavish ministerial clapping."

Well yes, bully for them, but I am one of 7 or 8 million unpaid carers out here, and nobody is clapping us. You only have to see what happens when we run out of energy and crash out, we use Nursing Homes as a last resort, and hey, that institutional model of care hasn't done very well in protecting vulnerable people, has it?

Yes it is perfectly true that 100 paid NHS and Care Workers have died - but even I can figure out the maths on that: there are 1.5M paid care-workers out there, so they are probably at no higher risk than any other working group in society, and there is a very good chance that many of these 'heroes' caught the virus at the gym or at the pub like anyone else.

How many unpaid carers will die? Well: who's counting? Once more, we are voiceless and utterly marginalised.
So, to continue: "How many unpaid carers have died from Covid-19"? Well, there are no official statistics, of course, but if we consider the typical age and gender profile of carers, their poor health and poverty, and a weighting towards ethnic minorities, I would guess that between 2,000 to 4,000 unpaid Carers have died so far.

Why isn't anyone talking about this? We supposedly have Carers charities, but they have been silent as the lambs, and quiet as the driven snow.

The publisher is the Centre for Welfare Reform.

Who's Counting Carers? © Robert Kay 2020.

All Rights Reserved. No part of this paper may be reproduced in any form without permission from the publisher except for the quotation of brief passages in reviews.