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New research from Carers UK has revealed that family members caring for loved ones who are already struggling with the high cost of living, are being further impoverished by having their ability to earn restricted by Carer’s Allowance.  

The research identified that 75% of unpaid carers receiving the allowance are struggling with cost-of-living pressures, while almost half (46%) are cutting back on essentials, including food and heating, and 45% were even more likely to say they were struggling to make ends meet, compared with 39% last year.   

Alison from Manchester, who gave up her career as a speech and language therapist to care for her husband when he was diagnosed with MS and receives Carer’s Allowance, is amongst those carers who have had to make desperate choices:  

“I am regularly skipping meals. We have skipped lunch for the last 9 months. Now I sometimes cook just for my husband, and I skip dinner. Sometimes I have cereal for dinner. Sometimes I have a jar of baby food. It is 95p and often reduced further. I can eat baby food for dinner to save money.” 

Eligible carers supporting older, disabled or seriously ill relatives receive £76.75 Carer’s Allowance for a minimum 35 hours of unpaid caring a week. This equates to £2.19 an hour*, which is lower than the current national living wage (£10.42/hour), and next April’s increased national living wage (£11/hour), if this goes ahead.   

While carers can earn up to £139 per week if they have the time to work, even this added to the Carer’s Allowance still leaves them dismally below the national living wage (£6.16/hour versus £10.42/hour **). Carers exceeding the £139 a week limit by just one penny forfeit the entirety of their Carer’s Allowance.  

Helen Walker, Chief Executive at Carers UK, said:  

“Carers, and particularly those who are receiving Carer’s Allowance, are extremely vulnerable to high costs due to their limited ability to earn an income. It is vital that the Government immediately overhauls Carer’s Allowance and increases the rise in the earnings threshold so that carers can continue to earn. The earnings threshold for Carer’s Allowance should be linked to increases in the National Living Wage in law. 

“More immediately, unpaid carers need a financial boost this winter to ensure they can survive the winter months, and we are calling on the Government to provide additional and targeted financial support now or more unpaid carers are at risk of falling into poverty at the harshest time of year.” 

The research also showed that, of carers receiving Carer’s Allowance: 

  • 34% were even more likely to be struggling to afford the cost of food compared with 21% of all carers. This was an increase from 29% in 2022
  • 71% of unpaid carers receiving the allowance were even more likely to say they were worried about living costs and whether they can manage in the future, compared with 61% of all carers
  • 72% are worried about the impact of caring responsibilities (e.g. petrol for hospital visits, heating, specific dietary requirements) on their finances
  • 54% had cut back on seeing family and friends, compared with 43% in 2022 and 38% in 2021. (For more than most, family and friends provide an important life line for unpaid carers, often providing support and respite from sometimes long and lonely hours of unpaid caring.) 

Carers UK heads up the Carers Poverty Coalition, made up of over 110 national and local organisations. Formed in February 2023, the coalition campaigns to reform the benefits system to better support carers financially, end poverty amongst carers by advocating for policy change, bring in better systems to support carers to continue with paid work, and build awareness of the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on unpaid carers.  

Read our State of Caring 2023 report: The impact of caring on: finances

Source: Carers UK

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