So Labour’s burst of policy announcement’s over Easter included its plan to increase Carers Allowance by 17% (or £10 per week), at a cost of £538m, to be funded by reversing George Osborne’s cut to inheritance tax. It’s a good bit of politics, aimed at cementing Labour’s claim to be the true party of fairness. Very Milibandian even….
I’ve no doubt many families would welcome a 17% increase in their benefit income. The income penalty associated with disability – whether born by disabled people or those who support them – is high and it is right that this is recognized via redistributive measures.
At the same time, such policies, absent of any wider plans for social care, further consolidate the normalization of unpaid care-giving, while negating to offer anything to address it. Listen to the rhetoric from Corbyn surrounding the announcement.
“Britain’s social care crisis was made in Downing Street by cutting £4.6bn from council care budgets. Millions of unpaid carers have been forced to fill the gap and put under even greater pressure as a result.
“We believe these unsung, unpaid heroes not only deserve our praise and recognition – they deserve better financial support. That’s why Labour is convinced it’s both morally and economically right to give the carer’s allowance a boost of £10 a week.”
First, the ‘social care crisis’ has been made worse by austerity – significantly worse. But its cause is a result of decades of political failure, including 1997-2010. Labour offers nothing here to address its own past failings or in terms of future vision. Increasing Carers Allowance by £10 per week is the cheap and easy route politically, while leaving millions of people without the support they urgently need.
The reality is unpaid care-givers are over-sung and over-heroised by politicians in order to create a smokescreen. Only politicians benefit. The Association of Directors of Social Services estimates that a third fewer older people receive any statutory support than a decade ago. Who picks up the slack? Are they willing heroes?
We need a revolution in the area of adult care and support, one with equivalent transformational political force as that which has taken place in relation to childcare over the past 20 years. Care and support needs to be recognized as part of the public infrastructure, linking together goals of health and wellbeing, increasing employment, promoting good family life and stronger communities. That is, like childcare, it needs to be viewed not as a cost, but as an investment. Until then the crisis will not be averted, it will just continue to be ignored.