Carers Rights? Do us a favour!

Today is Carers Rights Day. Always something to bring a wry smile to the face of your average unpaid carer.  Carers rights?  Wrongs more like.

And this year the Covid pandemic has made the situation for Britain’s unpaid carers – statistically more often women than men –  worse than ever. New research published by charity Carers UK shows that unpaid carers provided support valued at £530 million for every day of the pandemic. Some must have been due to the increase in those needing care but I am sure part of this increase was  because the limited support  enjoyed  (o so enjoyed) by carers evaporated in lockdown.

The numbers of unpaid carers  also rose in 2020 – from the pre-pandemic 9.1 million (57% women) to the current appalling 13.6 million  (1 in 5 of the population). An extra 2.7 million women (59% of the  4.5m increase )  and 1.8 million men have started caring for relatives who are older, disabled, or living with physical and/or mental disabilities -because of the pandemic.

So, on Carers Rights day, how about pondering what human rights our country’s 13.6 million unpaid family carers actually have?

Right to equality? Try it. Next time someone asks what you do, say you are a family carer, and watch how your status slips. Your work is not even worthy of pay. Your conversation, contacts, experience not worth their time.

Freedom from discrimination? In law maybe, but in real life? How many carers suffer constructive dismissal? How many never get employment? And how many carers can say, hand on heart – they were never discriminated against because employers, colleagues, party remenbered they were covered under the Equality Act 2010 by the protected characteristic of the person they cared for? I certainly can’t.

Freedom from slavery? Many carers work around the clock 24/7 without a break, without pay, without consideration. And I do mean work. Slavery? I say nothing.

Right to remedy by a competent tribunal/ right to fair public hearing/ right to be considered innocent until proven guilty. Carers remain the punchballs, relied on as workhorses by paid and unionised professionals to do unstinting work on their behalf, and yet all too often  they also are Cinderellas who can be blamed, opinions dismissed or even find themselves demonized without redress for pointing out any mishap.

Right to Rest and Leisure. When a carer works 24/7, this is truly laughable.

Right to Adequate Living Standard? The meagre Carer’s Allowance for carers who care more than 35 hours a week (currently £67.25 a week and an unpaid Carers’ only benefit) cannot be claimed if a carer is young, a student, retired, or earning more than £122 net a week. This means the government expects an unpaid carer to live on a maximum of £10,140 a year – if they manage to wrap some work around full time care.  Does that seem adequate to you? It’s £27.78 a day.  Compare that with recent complaints that £150,000 was not enough for Boris Johnson to live on.

The bottom line is that carers wouldn’t need a Carers Rights Day if the state had ever given unpaid Carers any meaningful rights.

Carers need to be seen as the workers they are, so that the real cost of that care:  the often long and unremitting 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 them.

And then that support was offered!

Pavement Parking – YOU can make sure it’s over!

Pavement parking benefits nobody but the parker, who gains a few seconds of their time which is clearly more valuable than anyone else’s.

Pavement parking: its selfish, its antisocial, it discriminates against so many people, and causes difficulties to their lives.

But sadly – except in London – its not illegal.

But now it can be.

Fill in the Government’s Consultation: Pavement Parking – options for change. I’ve filled it in as Woodbridge County Councillor but this is a case of the more responses the better. There is just one week left: the consultation finishes on 22 November.

https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/managing-pavement-parking/pavement-parking-options-for-change

PS I have gone for Option 3: NO parking on the pavement (except for necessary exceptions they list: ambulances, fire engines, etc )

Your voice matters! It doesn’t take very long.

And your voice might be the one that nakes the difference.

What’s happening – Woodbridge, Sept 2020

Caterpillar Centre closure & other changes to go ahead, despite opposition challenge  On 25 August, County Cabinet agreed to reduce the number of Children’s Centres in Suffolk from 38 to 17 full-time & 11 part-time Family Hubs. 8 centres will be repurposed for nurseries or SEND provision, whilst 2 will close permanently (Chatterbox in Ipswich and Caterpillar in Woodbridge).

The council has said that this is not a cost-saving exercise and that any savings will be used to fund additional staff for outreach work.
My group worked with the Labour group to collectively challenge the Cabinet’s decision at Scrutiny. We were given leave to question only the finance and the outreach proposals. I substituted for one of our group’s two regular scrutiny members. You can find our questions here https://suffolklibdems.org/carolinepage/2020/09/20/caterpillar-childrens-centre-lost-despite-our-best-endeavours/

Trading Standards I want everyone to make local residents aware of the ‘you must renew your washing machine (or some such appliance ) insurance’ scam that is doing the rounds by telephone. Recently an elderly Woodbridge resident was very nearly coerced into believing she should pay a significant sum of money by direct debit, because these heartless scoundrels insisted she had made a verbal agreement over the phone. The line is “they are renewing your insurance.” This is not the case.

Current Suffolk school transport arrangements, and other issues Suffolk County Council has confirmed that it will initially not be offering spare seats on school transport. This is due to social distancing requirements, which have reduced the capacity on school buses. However, parents may be able to apply for a spare seat from October half term.
The council has also confirmed the arrangements for masks and social distancing on school transport. The rules vary depending on the type of transport used:
• Dedicated closed routes (vehicle only carries school children) – social distancing will not apply, face coverings are recommended for children aged 11+
• Shared routes (most passengers are pupils, but may be some members of the public) – pupils should observe social distancing guidelines with members of the public but they can sit next to members of their family or school, face coverings are mandatory unless a child is exempt from wearing one
• Public transport – social distancing will apply, face coverings are mandatory unless a child is exempt from wearing one
There continue to be concerns and anxieties about schooling. At the end of Sept I asked  the Director for Children and Young People’s services the following questions:
• How many Suffolk schools have reported Covid infection or potential Covid contact incidents since the beginning of Autumn term 2020?
• What % children returned to school? Have they stayed there? Is full-class teaching the norm?
• What planned educational support is offered to children in care if their school locks down?
• Was there a Suffolk increase in reported child abuse stats after lockdown lifted?
• Given the numbers of schools outside local authority control, how can we best (or can we?) get a picture of children’s health and educational engagement across the county?
• Can you confirm the government’s statement that in the event of a second lockdown, schools will stay open?
• It became clear the care home infections were largely caused by peripatetic staff. As I asked before, is Suffolk tracking the movements of peripatetic school staff (music, language teachers, supply teachers etc?) If not why not?

(Do contact if you want the answers)

SizewellC – SCC withdraws support – but you must register to continue protesting In an amazing and welcome volte face Cabinet managed to approve a paper on Tuesday, recommending that ‘while the Council was always minded to support a new power station in principle – it cannot support the proposals as they stand today. “(Strangely, this is what my group asked of them in July but they voted en masse against https://suffolklibdems.org/carolinepage/2020/07/10/libdem-green-sizewell-vote-lost-suffolk-tories-and-labour-join-forces-to-vote-it-down/)

A reminder: If you want to continue commenting – or indeed objecting – to Sizewell C you must register with the planning inspectorate by 30 September, with a brief outline of your concerns . I have registered my objections as elected county councillor for a division affected by this proposed development. https://suffolklibdems.org/carolinepage/2020/09/17/register-fast-to-protest-sizewellc/

2025_Extraordinary Proposed New County Council divisions
Key to proposed new division names

New Boundaries proposed for Suffolk County Council seats
Despite having said it had abandoned the project, the boundary commission has now come up with its new slimline county council boundaries – and they bear no resemblance to those proposed by me or by Woodbridge Town Council. These will not be implemented till 2025 but will be decided on relatively soon.

They are bizarre in the extreme.

Proposed new Woodbridge division (32) loops neatly around Melton to take in Ufford on the other side. Why do the Conservatives, who proposed this, fear linking Melton to Woodbridge? Rhyme or reason is there none

The new Woodbridge boundary (32) would continue to have the boundary division down the middle of Pyches Road, dividing the community in half. It then skatesneatly around the whole of Melton but loops back to include Ufford!

The multiple Woodbridge community connexions with Melton (including having the Woodbridge CP IN Melton Parish , has been ignored.The Boundary Commission tells us that this extraordinary and  unreasonable proposal is the local Conservative group proposal. It has neither rhyme nor reason. Of course Melton has an identity of its own – but surely it is closer to Woodbridge  than Hollesley, Bawdsey, Rendlesham and the other Wilford parishes to which they are proposing it should be joined instead.

It  excludes  many people who consider themselves residents of Woodbridge excluded by the completely bonkers line down the middle of Pyches road, which makes them now Wilford  residents – linked  with the division across the Deben – to Hollesley, Bawdsey and all the land up to just below Aldeburgh.

It includes people who would not define themselves as residents of Woodbridge –  the residents of Ufford for example, who are geographically on the same Old Yarmouth Rd as excluded Melton – but further away. It’s crazy.

It is almost as if the Conservatives designed this,  hoping that this topsy turvy division might finally deliver Woodbridge back into their hands.  (But of course no party would be so inappropriate.)

Sadly they appeared to have misread the conditions. “You cannot split a parish,” declared a longstanding ex-District Councillor. He had clearly forgotten  that the Woodbridge county division already contains a section of Martlesham parish (one side of California, Dukes Park and the whole of the Fynn estate…)

Among the many additional issues of this whole unnecessary exercise I must point to the utter fatuity of division 19 created out of much of Carlford and Wickham (to be called Grundisburgh and Wickham Market.) In reality this stretches from Tuddenham St Martin and Westerfield next to Ipswich to Stratford St Andrew and Farnham at the other end. Again, an exercise in creating a division that cannot be reasonably represented and is not representative.

This at a time when county councils are already being asked by government to do more for less, and people are losing touch with who represents them.

The final consultation for the next stage of the boundary review is here: Look at the map, read the justifications, and respond before NOVEMBER – please – in the name of local democracy. https://consultation.lgbce.org.uk/have-your-say/18495

Infrastructure Board established to oversee costs of large projects It has emerged that Suffolk County Council established an Infrastructure Board in November 2019 to oversee large infrastructure projects and ensure they remain within budget. This is in response to a number of recent projects where costs have increased dramatically, including the Upper Orwell Crossings which was eventually abandoned after costs increased by £43m.
The board is currently only made up of officers.
Co-incidentally, though Cabinet has recently given final approval for the Lowestoft Lake Lothing Third Crossing, the cost of the bridge is now much higher than originally estimated. The report prepared for Cabinet estimated that the total cost of delivering the bridge is £126.75m, with an additional £19m allocated as a contingency for any unforeseen risks. The original estimate was £91.73m.

 

 

 

Caroline Page, LibDem County Councillor for Woodbridge