Photo: Guy Smallman/Getty Images
Care for carers
In Britain and around the world, too many of our carers – paid and unpaid – are in poverty.
The coronavirus has underlined the importance of care, and threatens to exacerbate the links between care, poverty, gender and wider inequalities.
It’s time that we take proper care of our carers, urge our politicians to listen to their needs and make sure that they have what they need to get by – starting right here at home.
Lynn is asking for politicians across Britain to #CareForCarers...
In focus: Lynn Williams, unpaid carer
"Even before the pandemic, carers faced poverty as we plugged holes in the system, and now our costs have gone up. Anxiety and stress, multiplied by the direct and indirect impacts of coronavirus mean so many carers feel that they may burn out. And I understand how that feels, I have been anxious, scared and have felt utterly alone. My own fear is magnified when my husband looks on with terror in his eyes as he sees himself in every older or disabled person who dies as a result of this pandemic. At times, the pressure has felt like a heavy weight on my shoulders. That fear is living in the homes of disabled people and carers across Scotland and beyond. We feel helpless when we have no say in the policies and responses which so profoundly affect every aspect of our lives. Now, politicians have begun to talk about the future but we need their commitment to help carers, now."
Working together to create change for carers
At Oxfam, we know that our voices are stronger when we work together. That’s why we’re working with a range of different organisations across the UK to improve the lives of carers and make sure their voices are heard in the corridors of power.
Making carers’ voices heard
Too often, carers are prevented from having a say in the decisions that affect their lives. That’s why we’ve supported a project being run by Citizens UK and the Living Wage Foundation which is asking carers directly about the challenges they face and the things that would make their lives easier. Citizens UK and the Living Wage Foundation will then help make carers’ voices heard with employers and politicians, to improve the support, pay and conditions available to carers.
Oxfam is also a proud supporter of Carers Week; an annual campaign to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges faced by those who look after a sick or disabled loved one at home, and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK.
Caring: not ‘women’s work’
The vast majority of carers are women, both here in Britain and around the world. Historically, caring has been dismissed as ‘women’s work’ which means that carers have been undervalued and under rewarded for far too long. That’s why we’re working with the Women’s Budget Group to address the inequalities women face, and to suggest practical steps the government can take to make sure that carers are better protected from poverty.
In Wales, Oxfam Cymru is working closely with the Women’s Equality Network to make sure that the Welsh Government’s response to the pandemic recognises and responds to the specific challenges faced by women; including women who are carers.
Building back better
Before the coronavirus struck, too many carers faced poverty. And now, as a result of the pandemic, many more are being dragged into poverty. We must not return to ‘business as usual’. It’s time for us to care for the nation’s carers as they have cared for us.
Helping carers get a job
That means supporting carers who want to work get ready to find a suitable job. We know that many people who are responsible for looking after a sick or disabled loved one find themselves locked out of the job market, despite wanting to work. Too often, projects aimed at helping unemployed people get a job don’t take into account the specific problems carers face when looking for work. In Scotland, we’re supporting One Parent Families to develop a blueprint for future projects which could help carers become ready to work. We hope it will become a model for supporting carers into employment right across Britain.
A strong safety net
It’s clear that there is a growing appetite for building a new, fairer country which protects people from poverty and provides an adequate social security safety net.
Right now, too many carers face poverty because they are forced to rely on a complex system which doesn’t give people enough money to live on.
That’s why we’re supporting an exciting new project being run by the Child Poverty Action Group which is coming up with a bold vision for what a social security system that protects everyone from poverty could look like. Oxfam’s support of this work is enabling people who have direct experience of engaging with the social security system to have the chance to share their ideas of what needs to change, both now and in the future.
Carers are key to getting us through this crisis, and they deserve better. To demonstrate our care for carers, Oxfam wrote an open letter asking MPS, MSPs and MSs to call on politicians across Britain to act to end poverty for carers, now and forever. This letter was signed by over 100 others who also support this cause.
Care, poverty and Coronavirus across Britain
We know that the current crisis is putting even more strain on our carers, who are more likely to be women.