4 Simple Cheap Ways to change Carers’ Futures

In this country we rely 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. This is not only sad and bad, it is expensive.  How much does it cost to replace 24/7 specialised, knowledgeable care? If you wear me out the hours alone cost around£55,000  at minimum wage to replace – assuming you could get anyone to work them for that money and do a good job.  Five years ago when the cost of home care was estimated it varied between £18 and £27 per hour depending on whether it was daytime, evening or weekend. Goodness knows what it is in 2013.

People like myself have worked unsupported 168 hour weeks for years – in my case for the whole of this millennium. You know, its possible we might just get worn out!

So what’s the answer? I suggest the following serious revision of how carers are supported and viewed. And looking it I don’t think its unduly expensive or ambitious. Just common sense:

  1. The Carers allowance should be seen as a wage rather than a benefit, and awarded and not meanstested (exactly as DLA as awarded to those who are eligible) rather than clawing back sums in the long-established Scroogery that currently exists. Currently you can claim £59 odd a week -if you 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. These folks have hearts like greasy bullets, don’t they?
  2. The government should 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.
  3. the government should agree 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.
  4. a solid and appropriate scheme set up to train 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.

I have suggested this many times before to the sound of clapping from fellow-carers, but of one hand clapping from those in power.

I’m tired of being vox clamantis in deserto.

Isn’t it time to listen to the people who best know what we’re talking about?

4 Simple Cheap Ways to change Carers’ Futures

In this country we rely 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. This is not only sad and bad, it is expensive.  How much does it cost to replace 24/7 specialised, knowledgeable care? If you wear me out the hours alone cost around£55,000  at minimum wage to replace – assuming you could get anyone to work them for that money and do a good job.  Five years ago when the cost of home care was estimated it varied between £18 and £27 per hour depending on whether it was daytime, evening or weekend. Goodness knows what it is in 2013.

People like myself have worked unsupported 168 hour weeks for years – in my case for the whole of this millennium. You know, its possible we might just get worn out!

So what’s the answer? I suggest the following serious revision of how carers are supported and viewed. And looking it I don’t think its unduly expensive or ambitious. Just common sense:

  1. The Carers allowance should be seen as a wage rather than a benefit, and awarded and not meanstested (exactly as DLA as awarded to those who are eligible) rather than clawing back sums in the long-established Scroogery that currently exists. Currently you can claim £59 odd a week -if you 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. These folks have hearts like greasy bullets, don’t they?
  2. The government should 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.
  3. the government should agree 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.
  4. a solid and appropriate scheme set up to train 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.

I have suggested this many times before to the sound of clapping from fellow-carers, but of one hand clapping from those in power.

I’m tired of being vox clamantis in deserto.

Isn’t it time to listen to the people who best know what we’re talking about?

We MUST have better bus transport – not worse

The rural population of Suffolk  is increasingly dividing into the haves and have-nots:  those WITH transport – and those without any.

With the imminent closure of Anglian Buses 164 and 165 services, and following the diminution of the 63 Framlingham service, I sent a litany of local travellers’ concerns to our MP Therese Coffey together with a letter asking  her to use her influence as our local MP to do four things:

  • to try and change some of the decisions to reduce bus services at a local level  – specifically by asking Go Ahead (new owners of Anglian Buses) if they could reconsider their decision to cut.
    I pointed out that as the 164 bus was an additional service that has only been around for 6 months, I feel it likely most of the travelling public might be satisfied with the restoration of the 165;
  • to use her voice to alter – at national level – the ridiculous ethos of so-called competition which has caused deregulated buses to provide such a terrible service in  the countryside.
    In the past County Councils ran bus services on the basis that popular routes could subsidise essential routes with smaller passenger numbers. I have sympathy with Councils that see no reason to subsidise only loss-making services. The loss of the 165 shows us on what a tightrope the services run. Yet rural services are not a frivolous luxury – they can make the difference between productive employment and training and expensive enforced idleness;
  • to press the government to address the situation of local transport in the forthcoming spending review holistically, by recognising the additional expense in social care and welfare payments that will occur if public transport is not  supported.
    I asked her to press  them to support it at all costs because public transport is an essential part of supporting the future welfare of the country – particularly in rural areas;
  • to press the government to look at the frankly unfair differentials in per capita spending on public transport across the country.
    Each Londoner gets about three times as much spent on them as each person in Suffolk despite the huge economies of scale London offers – and London buses aren’t deregulated. Why should the rural population be worth any less?

I wrote this letter because  I’ve been contacted by a so many people living along the path of the soon-to-be-cancelled Anglian bus routes 164 and 165 (164  Saxmundham -Wickham Market-Woodbridge – Ipswich ending at Railway Station. 165:Aldeburgh, Leiston, Rendlesham, Woodbridge, Ipswich ending at Railways station).  I am known to be particularly concerned about the public transport situation in Suffolk but I am assuming that Dr Coffey and various relevant council colleagues will have also been approached.

These two services are greatly loved and regularly used by many different local people (including myself). They are being cancelled because they are not profit-making. Indeed, how can they be  when First bus company has been scheduling similar but by no means identical 64/65 services to run in direct competition?  This has been a no-win situation as bus companies and travellers have all lost out.

At the same time the First 63 service from Ipswich to Framlingham has been cut back so as to provide a 3-4 bus service only  Monday to Friday (no holidays). For the rest of the time , Framlingham and its famous castle is  as cut off from Woodbridge and tourism as if it were in Ulan Bataar – a fantastical situation for ‘the greenest county’ to countenance.

Basically this means that the five major bus services that up till May 2013 ran through Woodbridge – the second largest town in Dr Coffey’s constituency – have been halved at a stroke.

The loss of these buses will have a dreadful impact on bus users all the way down Suffolk Coastal from Leiston to Woodbridge. Research from the Suffolk Foundation a year or two back has told us that 1 in 5 families in Suffolk don’t have a car.  The County council response to this over the years has been to replace scheduled services with so-called Demand Responsive Transport. This is a misnomer as it doesn’t respond in any sense to actual demand, or indeed need.

Most of my correspondents have been older people but this loss of more scheduled services will also have an impact on travel to education, employment and training – and thus upon NEETS. It will negate the Suffolk Conservative election pledge of a revived Youth Travel card. (What use is a youth travel card if there is no bus to travel on? ) Demand responsive transport is not set up to satisfy the regular, timely requirements of travel to education, employment and training as recent research has underlined http://www.bettertransport.org.uk/media/28-may-young-people-research

It will continue the negative effect on tourism caused by the current (in my opinion crackbrained) transport system which sees would-be visitors to Suffolk stymied by a double whammy of a rail company (Greater Anglia)  that only  performs engineering works at weekends and public holidays –  and a rural bus service that has stopped all services at these times. Again, Demand Responsive transport is of little help in this case because the tourist has to know about it in advance and know where they will be to pick it up, and understand the booking system. Never was there a service less fit for purpose!

We need our county council to do more to subsidise scheduled services – and i have copied this letter to the new Cabinet member for Transport, asking him to look at this. But we need more – we need all our elected representatives at all levels of government to join together  to improve the status of public transport in Suffolk  – indeed in all rural areas.

We fail to do so at our peril.