Carer. Caregiver. Sometimes terminology overcomplicates. What is a carer? A husband or a wife. A partner. A parent or a child. A neighbour. A friend. A niece or nephew. A brother or sister – by blood, or in spirit. A daughter or son-in-law. Sometimes it is the family ties that bind. Sometimes it a a friendship. Sometimes it is location or trust. Sometimes there is no rhyme or reason why one person ends up as ‘carer’ to another and sometimes it is fated or meant to be.
We, in these positions we hold, have this term we use ‘carer’. It means so many different things to different people though. When does a parent become a carer? Or rather, when does a parent stop being a carer? Is there a ‘cut off’? When does a partner become a carer? Do they stop being a spouse to take on this new ‘role’ at any point? I don’t think so. There is no definition that seems to fit the word adequately so we shuffle around the corners of self-definition and sometimes demand it.
We need carer’s assessments for our performance indicators. You live with your mother and help her so you ARE a carer by our definition. Have an assessment. You say you are a wife and not a carer? Well, that doesn’t fit into our carefully determined figures. You ARE a carer by our definition. Have an assessment.
There seems to be a measure of convenience in the figures measured possibly with the best of intentions over this intensely personal and human relationship whereby one person may depend for care in an unpaid capacity (although there are blurs around the issue of payments and I’m oversimplifying) on another.
So this week is carer’s week in the UK. It is a time to focus on Carer’s – recognised and unrecognised – ‘defined’ and ‘non-defined’.
It is an area that interests me inherently. If we don’t care for carers we fail as a society. And in general, in my experience, we don’t.
There is the issue of money. It shouldn’t come first but in a capitalist society where worth seems to be determined on a basis of cash worth, we pay a Carers Allowance of £55.55 per week.
There are certain conditions attached to that sum which are worth sharing for those unaware of the parsimony 0f the state.
You may be able to get Carer’s Allowance if you:
- are aged 16 or over
- spend at least 35 hours a week caring for a person
They should be getting one of the following benefits:
- Attendance Allowance
- Disability Living Allowance (at the middle or highest rate for personal care)
- Constant Attendance Allowance at or above the normal maximum rate with an Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit
- Constant Attendance Allowance at the basic (full day) rate with a War Disablement Pension
You can’t get Carer’s Allowance if:
- you’re in full-time education with 21 hours or more a week of supervised study – or doing a course described as full-time by the college or establishment providing it
- you earn more than £100 a week after certain deductions (like Income Tax) have been made
35 hours a week as a minimum. £55.55 per week.
So there are a whole lot of people that Carer’s Allowance will not touch. Let’s think about THAT when the government narrative moves around ‘Benefit Cheats and Scroungers’. Let’s not forget that the government are wanting to reduce DLA claimants by 20% so for the meagre amount that it is, that will affect the right of Carers to claim the pittance that they do.
Many whom we, as state employees may define as ‘carer’s’ don’t define themselves as carer’s. That’s one ‘problem’. The other is that the process of providing services for carer’s while better than it was, could still go a long way.
The argument is that we (the State) cannot pay everyone who would otherwise ‘care’ informally. We can’t recompense parents who are looking after their children or children who are looking after their parents because that monetises ‘normal’ family relationships.
But the issue is that some people need more help than others. Some situations are very far from ‘normal’. More than 35 hours a week care. That’s the equivalent of a full time job.
I don’t want to think about putting the caring role in terms of cash saved to the coffers of the local authorities and National Health Service because I think it’s not necessarily a ‘fair’ swap but we have to accept that as a society, we can provide a decent income and support for those who are providing a service for those who are ‘cared for’.
See, how easily I move into the self-same dichotomy I’m uncomfortable with. Creating ‘Carers’ and ‘Cared For’ as separate compartments is a part of the difficulty of definitions. It is the giver and the receiver and often in the context of family and friends those two ‘pots’ are not mutually exclusive.
But back to Carers Week regardless of definitions and the pots that we fit people into.
Recognition is important.
Carer’s Assessments that actually led to increased support and services rather than just a tick box on the ‘targets met’ column are important.
Allowing for self-definitions of carer’s and not making assumptions of ‘what is best’ is important.
Listening to carer’s through the assessment and care management process is important.
Respecting carer’s as advocates and experts is important and providing a decent quality of live through the provision of monetary support is important.
Being able to ditch assumptions and listen is important however people define their roles.
This week, Community Care are compiling a ‘Carers Wall’ with ideas of small things that make a difference to carers that we work with. That we are.
I am sure I’ll come back to this theme during the week as it is one that is close to my heart and one that is all the more important to shout about in times when cuts are looming.