Exclusive: Government urged to boost help for carers as figures reveal 35,000 of its own staff look after dependents
The Government has been urged to step up the financial help offered to carers after figures revealed more than 35,000 of its own workers look after dependents.
The data, gathered from the 2019 Civil Service People Survey, reveals that almost 20,000 Department for Work and Pensions staff have caring responsiblities, while more than 10,000 Ministry of Justice workers and 3,200 Department for Transport employees do the same.
Layla Moran, who has campaigned for better conditions for keyworkers as part of her Liberal Democrat leadership pitch, said the Government should "recognise the compassion and resilience" of its support staff, as well as other carers across the country.
“Unpaid carers face extraordinary challenges and are the unsung heroes of Britain. They provide day-in-day-out support for their loved ones, who are often some of the most vulnerable in society," she said.
The Oxford MP wants an immediate increase in the Carer’s Allowance and premiums to £75.75, up £8.50 a week or £442 a year, with a commitment to an annual rise in line with inflation.
She is also calling for carers to be handed a one-off £250 bonus recognise the additional demands of caring during the Covid-19 crisis.
The Government is also being urged to ditch its ‘no recourse to public funds’ migration policy, which limits the support available to carers who are not UK citizens, and review the existing Carer’s Allowance to suggest "a fair and decent allowance amount based on need".
“A weekly £67.25 through the Carer’s Allowance just isn’t good enough," Ms Moran told PoliticsHome.
"We need to urgently recognise the hard work of carers throughout this crisis, through an immediate uplift in the Carer’s Allowance and a one-off cash bonus of £250.
“In response to the previous economic crisis, £31 million was cut from carers' benefits, and 10,000 people had their Carer’s Allowance removed completely. These cuts made carers feel at best taken for granted and at worst ignored. This was the wrong approach, and it must now be reversed."
Meanwhile, Ms Moran's leadership rival, Sir Ed Davey, who cared for his own mother as a child and has a son, John, who is disabled, said carers should be covered by 'protected characteristics' - giving them the same equality rights as disabled people, racial and religious minorities and pregnant women.
Jamie Stone MP, who lobbied for parliamentarians to be able to continue voting remotely during the Covid crisis if they have caring responsibilities, said a top-to-bottom review of support provided to civil service carers should be carried out.
"We've heard some fairly sabre-rattling noises from some elements of government about the reform of the civil service," the Lib Dem MP, who has been his wife's carer for 21 years, told PoliticsHome.
"If you are in that situation and are looking after loved ones, but apprehensive about your job, I can imagine that would be pretty stressful.
"A lot of people, even in this day and age, don't quite get it about being a carer and everything that entails, and I think it's about educating people in decision-making positions."
Mr Stone said many of the usual avenues of support open to carers had been closed off during the pandemic, with community care services under extra pressure.
"You don't have the luxury at the moment of beng able to ask for cover," he added.
"I think that as result of Covid, when the dust has settled, it would be very constructive if the whole civil service has a review on what exactly was in place for carers, what worked and what could be done better in the future.
"Because it's not just about carers - if a person being cared for knows their partner or family member is struggling or stressed, that then makes them worried and stressed in turn. It's a vicious circle."
'COMBINE WORK AND CARING'
In a blog published last month Rupert McNeil, the Government's Chief People Officer, said he wanted to make carers in the civil service "more visible".
"Recent events have seen many of us moving into new caring roles or changing the caring roles we already had," he wrote.
"You or your colleagues may be caring for someone who is shielding at home, or someone who cannot now access the support they previously relied on.
"I recognise how challenging the current situation is for colleagues who are carers.
"Across the Civil Service we have been adapting our support to enable people to cope with their continuing and changing responsibilities."
Mr McNeil said paid special leave was being made available in cases where caring prevents employees from working as usual.
He added: "As the situation develops, we will continue to make sure that carers can continue to combine work and caring wherever possible, and that they are supported where it is not.
"This is particularly important as we move towards the next phase of the COVID-19 response. We will all be working in a different way and we want to ensure that we meet the needs of our carers."