This is an article David wrote for the Gateshead Herald and Post, June 2006
Above, David Clelland with the Mayor of Gateshead Cllr Maureen Goldsworthy and Natalie Freeman from the Gateshead Crossroads project during their visit to the Gateshead Carers Association Open Day at the Civic Centre.
If you're a carer, and need advice, information or just someone to talk to, telephone the Carers Association on 490 0121 or drop in at 11 Regent Terrace, Gateshead
I was privileged last week to be able to participate in the Carer's Week celebrations organised by the Gateshead Carers' Association. Caring isn't a career choice - as one young woman commented wryly 'you just get on with it'. And there is an estimated six million or so people in the UK who are 'just getting on with it' by providing help and support to a relative or a friend who might otherwise either be in hospital or in a home, and who therefore save the economy some £57 billion per year - roughly the size of the entire NHS budget!
More than three million carers juggle caring with paid work. They're able to claim Carers' Allowance of £46.95 per week - this is the Allowance paid when the person cared for is so physically or mentally disabled that they require regular and substantial care of more than 35 hours per week. But the rules for claiming also limit earnings to earn less than £84 per week.
The injustice of that was brought sharply home when one of my constituents brought me her pay packet. Debbie is a bright, vivacious young woman, a single mum who cares for her son, seven year old Aaron, a lively and friendly little boy with Downs Syndrome. Debbie tries to work to fit in with Aaron's school days and they can just about manage on the combination of her wages, Child Benefit and the Carer's Allowance. But when Debbie earned the princely sum of 75p more one week, she lost her entire entitlement to the Allowance. How can that be fair? How did Aaron's needs change in the week that she earned £84.75?
At the other end of the spectrum, Elsie was forced to give up work to care for her husband Alan, who has Alzheimer's'. Elsie was receiving the Carer's Allowance but when she reached 60, and started getting her pension, it was taken off her - because she was getting a pension!
Is that fair? Alan's needs remained the same, just as little Aaron's did. Neither Debbie's responsibilities nor Elsie's had changed one jot. They are both determined and strong women, Debbie devoted to Aaron and Elsie equally devoted to Alan. But I cannot justify what is effectively the state taking advantage of their commitment to the people they love.
No-one wants to see taxpayer's money squandered - but it cannot be fair that either Debbie or Elsie, or indeed any other equally hard-working selfless carer, should suddenly be deprived of the Carer's Allowance.
The rules relating to Carer's Allowance need to be reviewed as a matter of urgency and I am currently taking the issue up with ministers.
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|Promoted by Ken Childs on behalf of David Clelland, both of 19 Ravensworth Road, Dunston, Gateshead. NE11 9AB|