OVER A QUARTER of a century ago, the then Labour MP for Bow & Poplar, Mildred Gordon, tabled an Early Day Motion in the House of Commons. It called for those who cared for elderly, young or disabled relatives to be paid the equivalent of the Old Age Pension and be credited with full National Insurance contributions.
Last week, the current Labour Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, offered carers dignity – not pay. The new Tower Hamlets Carers’ Dignity Charter comes after months of consultation and contains many pledges and standards which have been requested by carers themselves. It is very welcome to see the Council pledging to recognise the right of carers to be treated as experts in caring and to involve carers in decisions concerning their relatives.
Recognition and Remuneration For Carers
Date tabled: 24.01.1990
That this House considers that people engaged in the valuable work of full-time care of frail, elderly or disabled relatives or children under five years of age should not be impoverished by this commitment but should receive a minimum income of the equivalent of the full pension rate and full national insurance stamp credits.
However, the cuts in Council funding which were made by the last Conservative Government and which will be retained by the present Conservative Government have put the dignity of carers at risk. Since he became Mayor in the 2015 by-election, John Biggs has:
•introduced charges for Adult Social Care;
•closed Children’s Centres;
•threatened to pass the Council’s three day care nurseries to private sector providers.
The Council itself has quoted figures from Carers UK which suggest that care provided by unpaid carers is worth £132 billion per year – which works out at £19,336 per carer. Council figures show that there are just under 20,000 people in Tower Hamlets who are providing some form of unpaid care to friends or relatives – with over 15% of those carers being under the age of 25. This figure does not include those looking after children or those very informal care arrangements that exist in the community without being formally recognised. The dignity which the Council is promising these unpaid workers is welcome – but it’s not going to help make ends meet.
Launching the Charter, Mayor John Biggs said: “Thousands of unpaid carers make a valuable contribution to community and family life in Tower Hamlets by looking after those who are ill, frail, or disabled. We recognise that unpaid carers have their own needs and we want to ensure that they feel valued and supported in their own right.
“The Carers’ Dignity Charter and our updated carers strategy set out how the council, working in partnership will support carers to realise their individual potential, be it in education or in their home or working life. For example, we work with the Carers Centre to fund occasional retreats and breaks for carers, and also support the centre to provide information, advice and advocacy services for carers.”
The Mayor did not comment on how the new charges for social care have gone down with carers or service users themselves – or if they have affected take-up of care.
Cllr Rachael Saunders, Deputy Mayor and Cabinet Member for Health and Adult Services, said: “We are delighted to endorse the Carers’ Dignity Charter and highlight our commitment to valuing and driving up standards of services for unpaid carers and creating happier and healthier lives in the borough.” It is not clear whether Cllr Saunders was present at the launch or if she missed the get-together.