Unpaid carers have been the unsung heroes throughout the pandemic, but without their support millions of people would have struggled to manage.
Carers UK estimates that an additional 4.5 million people have taken on caring responsibilities following the outbreak of COVID-19 and 70% of existing unpaid family carers say they are spending even more time caring – an extra ten hours on average a week. I know that many carers are feeling overwhelmed as a result of the pandemic with the additional caring responsibilities and personal expense that it brings. Indeed, those who started caring since March last year are more likely to be managing work and childcare, alongside their caring responsibilities.
I believe Government must provide local authorities with the resources they need to support carers, including with proper information and advice. Carers must also be a priority for regular testing and personal protective equipment, particularly where they care for the most vulnerable.
In addition, all six legacy benefits, including Employment and Support Allowance and Jobseeker’s Allowance, should be uprated by £20 per week, in line with Universal Credit (UC) and Tax Credits. This would increase support for groups such as carers who have had no additional support during this crisis. As well as increasing legacy benefits, the Conservative Government should commit to end the five-week wait for Universal Credit which is pushing people into debt, remove the savings limit and abolish both the benefit cap and the two-child limit in Universal Credit and Tax Credits. Taking these steps would provide immediate support to people, including the most vulnerable in our community, affected by coronavirus.
More widely, the Chancellor must reverse his plan to reduce Universal Credit by £20 at the end of September. It should remain at its current level, until it can be replaced by a new social security system, which provides a proper social security safety net, and has dignity and respect at its heart.