An ‘army’ of home carers are planning a virtual strike on 21 June 2014 to highlight the governments non-recognition of those who work ’round the clock’ caring for sick, elderly and/or disabled friends and relatives.
The organiser behind the event, who is unnamed but describes herself as a ‘carer with attitude’, says that she has been caring for her daughter for 13 years, whilst also working single-handedly to earn enough money to support herself and her family.
Writing on the campaign website, the organiser says: “I’ve spent those 13 years in a haze of exhaustion and poverty and anxiety, listening to other people telling me how tired, hard-working, ill-paid and hard pressed they are.”
As part of the strike, hundreds of carers (at the time of publishing this article) have signed a letter to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith MP. The letter reads:
“Dear Iain Duncan Smith,
“I am writing to tell you about the proposed strike of the UK’s family carers on 21 June.
“Have you ever been on duty – responsible for someone’s life – 168 hours a week, week in, week out? It is quite as dreadful as it sounds. You have difficulty with everything: working, sleeping, socialising, existing. And, no, you don’t get used to it.
“Many – most – carers struggle with difficult daily conflicts between work and care, and an estimated one million have had to give up work or reduce their hours and lose much-needed income. (And often a lot of freedom, companionship and self-esteem in the bargain). As money worries cause stress, it’s hardly surprising that a lot of carers are also suffering from anxiety and depression because of finance.
“Successive governments have failed to support us.
“Loss of life, of income, of individuality. It’s a huge price to pay for love. Yet we don’t expect to be thought of as noble: we do it because we care and there are no other options . But it isn’t surprising that we would rather be thought of as the workers we are rather than the saints we are not and be treated accordingly.
“This is why we, the unpaid carers of Britain are going on strike. A strike with a difference – we Carers will only be withdrawing our labour virtually. And so, unlike with a real strike, we can ensure that our loved ones will stay alive and safe and protected.
“There is no way that the state can compensate us for the sheer amount of time we give up voluntarily. But you can prevent it from wrecking our lives and futures and making us an unwilling burden on the state when our caring work is over. We want you to recognise and recompense the work of the nation’s unpaid carers. Not for justice – though it would be just. But to ensure the country designs a robust response to the caring crisis that is coming upon us.”
The letter then lists a series of ‘modest, affordable and practical’ demands:
- 1: Carers Allowance for all live-in carers, irrespective of age or employment, just as DLA/PIP is given to those we care for.
- 2: A state-funded occupational pension scheme for each full-time carer to reflect what we might expect to have if we were working, say, only an 80 hours a week at minimum wage.
- 3: Solid practical careers advice and training for working-age carers to help us train for and sustain appropriate work within our environment and to provide us with the luxury of a working life should our caring duties finish.
- 4: Social housing to recognise the requirements of disability and caring in the allocation of rooms. Sufficient appropriate accommodation purpose-built for the disabilities of the local population – because if it is not provided this is a huge stress on carers.
- 5: State money ONLY given to organisations that offer properly targeted transport-accessible fit-for-purpose help for every carer who needs it.
The letter signs off with a plea to Mr Duncan Smith to ‘listen to our voices – The Family Carers Of Britain’.