Here is the email I have just sent to Luke Hall MP… (the reference to my big mouth is because I have written to him on a few local matters previously, and his Office Manager who was present, recognised my name!
Good Afternoon Luke.
Thanks for your time this morning at your open-air Surgery. Now you can put a face to the ‘big mouth’!
Just to clarify the matters I raised:
Support for Carers
Yes, as I mentioned this is a very personal situation as my husband, Graham suffered a Stroke 16 months ago and has had a series of other health issues since then. When the stroke hit, we had a successful business and worked together – both self-employed and were recovering from the problems of the pandemic. We had managed to keep our business alive (without the SESS we would have gone under) and were able to work right through as we provided medical treatment. It became clear very quickly that Graham would not be able to return to work and our plans to sell the Practice to finance his retirement at the end of this year went out of the window. I had to close down and become his full-time Carer.
By full-time, I do mean FULL-TIME. I have to be available 168 hours a week. As I mentioned Graham was lucky to be able to claim his State Pension and then we had to wait six months before we could claim Attendance Allowance for him – even though his needs had been there from the date of the stroke. The Assessor was very understanding and extremely helpful and processed the claim very efficiently – when it reached him about eight weeks after we filed the claim. My claim for Carer’s Allowance went through within just a couple of weeks which was amazing. Again I had provided the Care for eight months by then and was not entitled to any financial support.
My hourly rate is 45.68 PENCE per hour. How does that lie with the Minimum Wage or Living Wage? I will be very interested to see what sort of response you get by asking the Health Secretary how Carer’s Allowance rate was calculated. I doubt anyone even knows!
We are not badly off, but are living on savings which were suppose to support us in our dotage – OK perhaps I have reached that point already! – so without a ‘decent’ level of support we will become reliant on the State. With the pressure I find myself under, God forbid I should take seriously ill and then we would both need Care which will cost the State a huge sum compared to providing me with some moderate support now to enable me to relieve some of the pressure and stresses I am under.
Graham suffered the stroke and then experienced a range of other serious health issues: Cardiac problems, Respiratory Issues; Prostate Cancer (under control with treatment) which has led to continence problems – and we have to buy some, additional, more suitable pad pants privately as NHS does not supply them), and now Retinal Haemorrhage. I mentioned to you that he is waiting for a Neurology Out-patient appointment at RUH as he is suffering extreme pain in his head, but have been told his initial appointment will not be for at least another year. THEN he will have to wait for any scans or further examinations which are recommended. In the meantime his Quality of Life is practically zero due to excessive fatigue which leaves him unable to walk more than a few yards without resting or even focus on household tasks.
I was asked by CarersUK to keep a diary of a typical day foe me as a Carer and they published it in their Magazine at the end of last year. I have attached a copy (Cost of Care – Chris) as it might give you a further insight into what the effect of Caring can be. They published it under the title “The Cost of Caring” to highlight it is not always a financial cost. Also attached is a copy of CarersUK magazine with an article (Page 20) about me being “thrown in the deep end”. Again if someone has time to read this it might give a further insight.
I am fully aware that ANY Government has many, many calls on finances and balancing a budget is a nightmare – I have done it with a Business as well as our household so I know how hard it can be. However, in ANY Society there is an obligation to provide for those who fall on hard times. I am the first to say ‘get on yer bike’ and make sure you do whatever you can for yourself, but there are times when people cannot do that and NEED help. That is where COMPASSION comes in and it should be the role of Government to have Compassion.
I also mentioned how disgusted I was with South Glos Carer’s Assessment process. They may have a Provider who is contracted to carry out the work on their behalf but under the Care Act 2014 it is the Legal Duty of the Council to carry out the Assessment. They cannot pass the buck to a Contractor. THEY must ensure it is done properly or they fail in the Legal Duty. It is my opinion that South Glos has failed in its Duty. The only comment I got from them was ‘we have had issues with this team and this has been compounded by sickness and holidays’. How lovely that these people can take paid holiday or go sick (and get Sick Pay from their Employer no doubt – what a luxury that must be!) If I go away for a break, I lose my Carer’s Allowance unless Graham comes with me! Is that JUST? Is that FAIR? If I am not there I have to pay someone else (at least Minimum Wage) to do what I do for 45.68 pence/hour. I cannot ‘go sick’ as I still have to do my Care job.
Luke, I have had a loud moan, but at the end of the day WE are not that badly off at the moment. There are hundreds of thousands of people in a worse situation and I want to highlight to you the problems ALL Carers face. If you read the article I have attached, you will see a comment about my ‘vows’. Think back to your wedding to Roisin and how one of you would feel if you were in our situation – I could walk away and be free of the hassle and stress, but I will not. Most Carers carry out our role through Duty and LOVE and all we want is a little bit of recognition of what we do.
I have been asked by CarersUK to take part in a Zoom meeting with Ed Davey in a few weeks time to discuss Carers Issues. It will be interesting to see how he responds as I understand he was, some years ago, a carer for his Mother so will have personal experience of the problems. Penny Mordant has also said she was a Carer when her mother was seriously ill. I wonder how this effects their views? Perhaps I need to contact the local Labour Party office to put the points to them as well.
Thanks again for your time, and I would appreciate your comments at some point.