Creating a space for carers to share their voice.
Rachel and Sarah
In our Carer Voices series, Rachel speaks on the Universal Credit cut and interviews Sarah Spoor.
October is the month when millions of families like mine are facing our Universal Credit being cut by £20 a week. By 'families like mine' I mean families where one, or more of us, are a full-time, unpaid carer to a loved one. Unpaid carers. We have felt invisible to the government, and the majority of the public, during the pandemic and nothing has changed about that. Who is an unpaid carer? Someone who works, unpaid, as they are needed to provide 24 hour care, 7 days a week to someone, generally a family member. 

Can we briefly reflect on the situation many carers are in at this present time? Many of the people we care for are clinically extremely vulnerable to Covid-19. The restrictions carers have had to adopt, in order to protect those we care for, have been extreme. Some have barely left the house for nearly two years now. The price of contracting the virus and bringing it home to the person you care for is deadly. It's not worth it. Many carers and those they care for are still shielding from variants. Some clinically extremely vulnerable people can't be vaccinated, due to immune system issues. And the people my heart goes out to the most are clinically extremely vulnerable children. This is the group of people who don't have a vaccine approved for them. Who haven't been to school in years and who are still shielding. What has changed for them? Nothing. The pandemic is not over. But their £20 uplift, which has been their lifeline is over. 

They are forgotten and abandoned. 

"Am I angry? I'm more desolate and desperate at the moment. 'Hard working families' get all the mentions. Do I not work? If I'm not working, then what am I doing?" Sarah Spoor
Full time carer,part time advocate for justice,& budding activist-standing up for the rights of disabled,carers,& the less able. Articulate,fearless campaigner.
The Government keep saying that slashing Universal Credit will get people into work. But carers can't abandon their unpaid work as there is nobody to fulfil their caring role. There is no working social care system in the UK. The country relies on those of us who have given up careers to care for those we love. But slashing our Universal Credit will get us into work? We do work. We work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Unpaid. As carers.

Why should we keep the lifeline? It was just temporary. It was just during the worst of the pandemic. It was never meant to be permanent. All comments we hear time and again, from people who have never experienced the poverty that being an unpaid carer can bring. Carers and their families are used to struggling financially. But for the first time, the government proved that they can offer more help to the most vulnerable families in the UK. They can support families to be able to eat regularly, heat their homes and clothe themselves warmly. Research from the Trussell Trust, showed that seven in ten (72%) people on Universal Credit said the increase had made it easier to afford essentials. Nobody should not be able to afford food, water and heating in the 5th richest country in the world. The £20 per week uplift brought a better basic quality of life for millions of people and their carers. A quality of life that is a basic human right. It is worth noting that not all unpaid carers received the uplift. Those on legacy benefits received no extra support during the pandemic. They incurred the same extra costs, endured the same hardships but were eliminated from any extra financial support. We haven't forgotten about you. We see you.

Now, when families are facing an increase in their food bills, and astronomical rises in energy prices, is the time our government has chosen to take £80 per month from us. To those in power, this amount of money is trivial. The sheer privilege of not having any concept of how that £20 a week can make a difference between having enough food to eat, or going hungry, is diabolical. The comment from Rishi Sunak that Universal Credit claimants should 'rely on their own efforts to get by' clearly demonstrates how unpaid carers don't even register on the government's radar.

For carers and their families, the cut will be devastating. I am one of millions that will lose £80 a month social security from October and my anxiety over how we will manage is at a high level. We know our energy bills are about to double in price. We know winter is coming and that we won't be able to afford to put our heating on whenever we need to be warm. We know we will, most likely, be requesting food parcels again. We know we can't afford to buy warmer clothes. What we are facing, again, is abject poverty. But our government, who have all lived a life of cushioned privilege, do not even seem to regard us as human beings.

There are hundreds of thousands of frightened carers in the UK right now and we could fill pages with their concerns. For now, though, here is one example. Susan Spoor, from West London spoke to us and stated "I always said I would not be a carer in poverty, that working 168 hrs a week with no respite, limited broken sleep was enough. However, it seems that the time has come where myself, and my two disabled young adult sons, will be forced into that poverty, where I decide if we eat or suffer hypothermia. I am 'paid' 39 pence per hour Carer's Allowance to care for two adults. The government thinks it is now ok to take away our family income of £3000 per year in Universal Credit. Am I angry? I'm more desolate and desperate at the moment. 'Hard working families' get all the mentions. Do I not work? If I'm not working, then what am I doing?"

Poverty is a political choice. Our Conservative government is choosing to push carers, and the disabled people they care for, into poverty. They are choosing to let us go hungry. They are choosing to let us freeze over the winter. Many of our loved ones are advised they need a warm environment, due to circulation or respiratory problems. Pneumonia is always a risk in our household. Living in a cold and damp atmosphere, due to not being able to afford to buy gas and electricity to heat our homes, will lead to sickness and death for many this winter. Just like it did in Victorian times.

The excuse that the government can't afford to support vulnerable families is a lie. £37 billion was thrown at Serco's shareholders. They can find £10 billion for nuclear warheads. Massive corporations and the super rich are allowed to avoid paying tax. Because that's who our government prioritise. Not the disabled child, eating out of a food bank, but the wealthy, who abuse their power.

The government must keep the lifeline. Carers and their families must not be allowed to go without food and warmth. We are unable to work a paid job, as we already work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week unpaid. If we lived in a society which supported those who need care, maybe we could work a paid job. But we don't. Our government need to listen to the reality of families in our situation. They need to acknowledge that, although they have never experienced poverty themselves, that it does exist. They need to understand the situation carers are in and fulfil their responsibilities as elected members of our government. To act in the best interests of each and every citizen. We are citizens of the UK. We demand to be treated as such.

Keep the lifeline. Cancel the cut. Carers deserve better.

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