Today, 29th November is officially Carers Rights Day – the day when the UK celebrates family carers and tells them what they are worth.
” I am offended by the whole concept. Carers Rights Day seems to be a day when well-paid professionals and media pundits gather together to pat each other on the backs and declare they care. The brutal truth is that they don’t. Society doesn’t. Successive governments don’t. And when I once asked Unison strikers why they were not striking for family carers they memorably replied “Because you don’t work!” ,” says Woodbridge Councillor, Caroline Page
“Carers wouldn’t need a Carers Rights Day if the state had ever given Family Carers any meaningful rights. And the right to be accepted as a worker rather than patronised as a rather dim and unworldly saint comes top of the list,” Cllr Page – a longterm family carer – maintains.
“If carers were seen as the workers they are, the real cost of that care: the working hours, the loss of careers, the impact of poverty and poor health, the absence of employment-related pensions – all these might be factored into the support offered to them. As it is, people suggest they may like a session of aromatherapy!
“The welfare state has traditionally relied on the love carers feel for those they care for to save the state the real cost of that care. Yet carers suffer from blighted careers, poverty, poor health (fulltime carers are twice as likely to be in bad health than their peers) and can look forward to little more than an impoverished old age. Thousands of people like myself have worked unsupported 168 hour weeks for years. It is perfectly possible we might just get worn out!”, says Caroline Page. “This is not only sad and wrong, it is also very expensive. How much does it cost to replace 24/7 specialised, knowledgeable care? Five years ago the cost of home care was estimated as between £18 and £27 per hour depending on whether it was daytime, evening or weekend. Goodness knows what it is in 2013.
“Every day should be Carers Rights Day – and everyone should recognise and remember they are a single step away from being either a carer or someone who needs care.”
Caroline Page is calling on the government to look at and act on her wish-list :
- Carers Allowance should be viewed as a wage rather than a benefit, awarded to all full-time carers . Currently family carers can claim £59 odd a week -if they don’t earn more than £100: meaning carers are expected to live and further their careers on £8368 a year. If, of course you earn a little more than £100 a week, you get no carers allowance at all. Yet the constraints on your lifestyle of fulltime caring are very equivalent to those of disability.
- The state must further relax rules on ‘other employment’ to allow carers the ‘luxury’ of being able to work, and have some non-caring life outside their responsibilities.
- The state should pay into the equivalent of an occupational pension for carers to accurately reflect (ok at minimum wage) the real hours spent caring. This could be established by reference to the cared for’s DLA returns and would give carers the prospect of a securer old age with recognition of what can be decades of real – if unpaid work.
- When a family carer is bereaved they are simultaneously made redundant. The state should set up robust and appropriate training to provide carers for genuine, satisfying jobs when their caring roles (often sadly) end. This isn’t a luxury – it is a reward for all the unpaid work they have done without prospect of career advancement.
Suffolk Lib Dems are deeply critical of proposals to toll the A14. “We are saying to government “You have got this wrong! Listen to us and to what the people of Suffolk are saying and revisit your decision to toll the A 14.” And the majority of Suffolk organisations, both private and Local Authority-led, are with us, ” Leader David Wood told October’s full council meeting last Thursday.
The Lib Dems amended the Conservative motion (to persuade the government to reconsider the need for tolling on this much-needed infrastructure project) by adding in reference to Suffolk’s pressing need for investment in sustainable transport from Felixstowe to Cambridge and beyond.
” The A14 is an esssential conduit between East Anglia and the heart of England – and yet for years there has been underinvestment by various governments in major infrastructure projects in East Anglia. Imposing a toll on the new road would be a further tax on Suffolk,” said Cllr Wood. “We have the largest port in the country, major industry that is expanding, a growing tourist economy – the two AONB’s alone are worth £300m annually- and yet we are being told that if you want this highway (its not even a motorway) you must pay for it!! We wouldn’t mind so much if this were government policy across the country, but it isn’t. Of all the current planned road-building schemes, only the A14 is planned to generate income, ”
“We recognise that Suffolk must be at the table when this subject is being discussed if we are going to put the point across successfully. This is why we were unable to support a Labour motion to withdraw the £1m funding SCC’s putting towards this major project. A million pounds is a huge amount of money but Suffolk County Council must be at the forefront of every discussion – putting the case for the people and industry of Suffolk to have its say and obtain a fair deal.
Investment in major infrastructure projects for East Anglia are long overdue which is why we are insisting that rail links between Felixstowe to Cambridge and beyond must also be looked at. Suffolk is an important player in the UK’s recovery and deserves investment without taxation,” said Cllr Wood.
Lib Dem spokesperson for Transport , Caroline Page, who seconded the amendment, adds ” years of underinvestment in Suffolk railways has left us with rail services from Ipswich to Cambridge and Peterborough which fall well short of what is required for effective day-to-day operation. In its current state the rail system is unable to provide a viable alternative to a tolled A14. This makes any decision to toll doubly unfair, because there isn’t the capacity for a reliable public transport alternative. ”
A fascinating new interactive map will show you exactly how much extra funding your local school has been able to claim via Pupil Premium
An extra £25,000? £75,000? £242,000?
Woodbridge county councillor Caroline Page is delighted to point out that ” this school year, Woodbridge’s excellent and inclusive Farlingaye High School has been able to claim nearly a quarter of a million pounds to provide additional support to pupils from hard-pressed homes. This is thanks to the Liberal Democrats in the Coalition government.”
The Pupil Premium – which is additional to main school funding – is an initiative introduced by the Liberal Democrats in government which intends to address the current underlying inequalities between children eligible for free school meals and their peer. It is doing this very practically by ensuring that funding to tackle disadvantage reaches the pupils who need it most.
You can click here to seach the map for yourself and find out for yourself what your school has been able to claim.
However, getting the funding is only the start. “Its quite a revelation to see how much money is going into Suffolk schools. We now have to see what they are doing with it, ” points out Suffolk Lib Dem schools spokesperson, Penny Otton
On this Sunday’s Politics programme, SCC Lib Dem leader Dave Wood will be voicing robust support for his party at both local and national level in advance of the Lib Dem party conference.
“After the initial shock at finding ourselves blamed for everything the Coalition government does, and the protest vote that cost us seats, we’ve realised that people have got into the habit of relying on us to hold the worst excesses of the Tories at bay, without acknowledging any of the good things we do. They’re having their cake and eating it! “ he says.
“So, instead of just getting on and doing the job – as we always do – we have to start shouting about our local and national successes. It’s up to us to bring our out light from under the bushel because it is clearly in the interests of both Tories and Labour to keep it hidden. But we do a lot. Let’s stop being so modest about our achievements.
Locally our hard work and dedication is acknowledged and respected. This is why no sitting Suffolk LibDem councillor lost their seat in the 2013 election. Yet for far too long we have been hard-working councillors that everybody knows and relies on without expecting the pat on the backs we deserve. We need to be proud of what we have achieved and be proud to tell everyone about our successes. In Suffolk, our local defence of local services saw off Andrea Hill’s New Strategic Direction, while nationally, we are behind all those many innovations like the triple lock pension, tax-cuts for the low paid, the pupil premium, and bringing record numbers of poorer students into higher education etc. These are improving life for so many of us in Suffolk – and in the UK as a whole.
We need to confront people with the reality: ask them what the Tories would be doing if we Lib Dems weren’t there to rein them in and keep watch on things. Unlike a lot of other European countries, the UK is not used to Coalition governments and hasn’t fully understood how they work. Too many people choose to see this Coalition as a friendship group, rather than what it is – a temporary alliance of very differing views. It suits the Labour party to support this view – after all the Coalition only exists to deal with the mess they left this country in.
We must not be afraid to tell everyone what we are doing and be proud to do so.”