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The devastating impact of the cost of living on unpaid carers

Publication: The Orkney News

In a revealing study, Carers Scotland uncovers the stark financial hardships faced by Scotland's 800,000 unpaid carers, shedding light on the challenges they endure.

Photo by Jack Finnigan on Unsplash

A new report published by Carers Scotland lays bare the financial impact of caring and paints a bleak picture for Scotland’s 800,000 unpaid carers.

Even more concerningly, the number of unpaid carers on Carer’s Allowance cutting back on essentials continues to grow, more than doubling since 2021. Today, 44% of these carers are cutting back on food and heating versus 22% just two years ago. This has led to one in six (16%) carers on benefits being forced to visit food banks.

“I haven’t got money for food at all, I only have money for some bills.”

Worryingly, the rent or mortgage arrears level has rocketed for all carers, with one in six (16%) struggling to meet these costs. With carer’s ability to increase their incomes restricted by caring responsibilities, many carers reported fears of losing their homes.  

“We can only afford to heat one room. This means our already very restricted life has shrunk even more. It’s cold and damp in Scotland for 9 months of the year so this is dismal.”

Richard Meade, Director of Carers Scotland, said:

“This year’s State of Caring lays bare the devastating financial impact of caring in a cost-of-living crisis on Scotland’s 800,000 unpaid carers. 

“Carers have told us about the significant poverty they experience, with rising costs, limited incomes, and the impossible choices they face just to make ends meet.

“Substantial numbers of unpaid carers are floundering and can see no end to the current financial storm. Governments and public authorities must act now, not just to prevent further crisis, but to give unpaid carers any hope of a brighter future.”

An unpaid carer is a family member, partner, friend or neighbour who helps a person with daily activities that they would not be able to manage if they did not have help. This could be a partner, family member or friend who has a long term or terminal illness, someone who is disabled, has a mental health condition, is affected by addiction or who needs extra help as they grow older. There are approximately 800,000 people in Scotland providing such unpaid care. It would cost an estimated £13.1 billion every year to replace the care they provide. – State of Caring in Scotland 

Carers Scotland has produced a series of recommendations, including urging that hardship funding should be made available this winter to help protect carers from poverty. 

The charity also urges the Scottish Government to move forward at pace with their introduction of the Carer Support Payment, which will replace Carer’s Allowance in Scotland. This will, for the first time, allow carers who are in full-time education to receive the benefit, but a clear timeline needs to be laid out as to when more significant changes to the benefit will be introduced.

Carer’s Allowance is money to help you look after someone with substantial caring needs. Carer’s Allowance Supplement is an extra payment for people in Scotland who get Carer’s Allowance on a particular date.

The Scottish Government has announced that the new Carer Support Payment will open for applications in pilot areas from November 2023, subject to parliamentary approval of regulations setting out rules and eligibility.

Adults living in Perth and Kinross, Dundee City and Na h-Eileanan an Iar will be the first to be able to apply ahead of the phased national rollout from Spring 2024. The benefit will be available nationally by Autumn 2024.

Shirley Anne Somerville, Social Justice Secretary in the Scottish Government, said:

“This change and the delivery of Carer Support Payment will be a key milestone in our ongoing work to improve support for unpaid carers, and we are committed to further changes to make the benefit work even better in future.”

Many unpaid carers face a bewildering array of funding arrangements and may not know who to go to for help with rising costs and any payments they may be entitled to.

A mixture of financial help is provided by the UK Government, Scottish Government, and Local Authorities, and support is available from The Third Sector. When you are already struggling with caring, this is a complex system to get your head around.

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