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Ministers urged to protect ‘undervalued’ carers from poverty amid coronavirus pandemic

The letter, organised by Oxfam, warns that both paid and unpaid carers risk financial hardship due to the ongoing effects of the pandemic.

3 min read

More than 100 organisations have signed an open letter calling on the Government to protect “undervalued” carers from poverty amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The plea, organised by charity Oxfam, warns that both paid and unpaid carers risk financial hardship due to the ongoing effects of the pandemic. 

Signatories include Carers UK, the Women’s Budget Group, Shelter, the IPPR and Unison.

It says: “Carers were already facing a poverty crisis, and our organisations are seeing this exacerbated by Covid-19. 

“Whether paid or unpaid, carers have faced a social security system that has not always protected them from poverty while paid carers have had to survive on poverty wages and insecure contracts.

“All of us depend on someone to care for us at some point in our life – as a child, in older age, or due to ill health or additional needs. 

“More than ever, this pandemic has made us all appreciate the incredible value and dedication of carers – both those who are paid and those who provide unpaid care for family or friends. Many are facing unprecedented levels of danger to protect us all. 

“Failing to ensure carers are protected from poverty would be truly unforgivable.”

The intervention comes as a YouGov poll, commissioned by Oxfam, revealed that 78% of UK adults think care work is not valued highly enough by the government. 

70% of those surveyed also said they believe care workers were paid too little.

Launching the letter, Oxfam GB Chief Executive Danny Sriskandarajah said: “We all owe the nation’s carers a debt of gratitude for putting themselves at risk to look after others during this pandemic.”

He added: “There’s overwhelming public support for carers to be given a fairer deal - political leaders across the UK owe it to them to make sure they’re protected from poverty, now and in the future.” 

Meanwhile, Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, highlighted research that showed that the vast majority (81%) of unpaid carers have seen their spending increase since the outbreak began.

She said: “It is simply unacceptable that Carer’s Allowance is the lowest benefit of its kind when unpaid carers contribute so much to our society and the economy – now, more than ever. 

“This pandemic needs to be a turning point in how we as a society treat carers. 

“The Government must ensure there is not a financial penalty for caring and invest in the care and support families so desperately need.”

Cases of Covid-19 have been spreading rapidly in care homes, with industry group Care England reporting there had already been thousands of cases and deaths in the homes they represent.

Deaths in care home settings were not included in government statistics until last week, with officials warning that the figures may yet be an underestimate because of reporting delays.

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