Okay, folks, it’s another Carers Rights day. Yet another. And I want to ask one simple question:
In reality, what human rights do our country’s unpaid family carers actually have?
Right to equality? Try it. Next time someone asks what you do, say you are a family carer, 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 find their onetime friends ‘forgetting ‘them? Carers are not cool.
Freedom from slavery? Many carers work around the clock 24/7 without a break, without pay, without consideration. And I do mean work.
Right to remedy by a competent tribunal/ right to fair public hearing/ right to be considered innocent until proven guilty. No way. We carers know we are the punchballs. We are relied on as workhorses by professionals who are paid, supported and unionised, to do unstinting work on their behalf, and yet we are all too often ignored, demonised, blamed. We are Schroedingers carers: ignorant but know-all, arrogant but timid, overprotective yet uncaring, in the narrative of social care and NHS provision. Cinderellas who can be blamed without redress.
Right to Rest and Leisure. When a carer works 24/7, this is laughable.
Right to Adequate Living Standard? Look at all of the above. Again, don’t make me laugh.
I am offended by the whole concept of a Carers Rights Day – a day when well-paid professionals and media pundits gather together to pat each other on the backs and moo “Ooooo – we care: we reeeelly care for your plight ”
Actions speak louder than words.
The 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!” (That is, because we Family Carers don’t have paid hours, overtime, sick pay, holiday pay etc etc, we don’t work. I have never forgotten. Or forgiven.)
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 MY list.
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!