Carers left to pay the price

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AS if the task of caring for an elderly, seriously ill or disabled loved one were not challenging enough, research published to coincide with national Carers’ Rights Day reveals that record numbers of carers are missing out on vital financial support.

Across the Yorkshire and Humber region, a total of 32,200 carers are failing to claim a staggering £100m worth of Carer’s Allowance. With living costs on the rise, it leaves tens of thousands of people – and their families – at risk of long-term debt and financial hardship.

This problem is exacerbated by the fact that looking after a loved one can often become a full-time job, forcing many carers to give up work.

Yet what is especially frustrating is that this is not down to a case of the funding required to support these individuals in their essential roles not being made available.

The money is indeed there, yet a lack of advice and information means a vast number are missing out.

The result is a grim picture of selfless individuals sinking further and further into the red. Research shows 40 per cent of carers are in debt, with one in seven owing more than £10,000. Meanwhile, almost half of all carers are cutting back on food and heating as the financial burden of looking after a loved one starts to bite.

That is not to say that the Carer’s Allowance is a princely sum. At £59.75 a week for a minimum of 35 hours, it is the lowest benefit of its kind – equivalent to just £1.71 an hour.

This should be considered in the context of how much the UK’s 6.5 million carers save the country each year.

At an estimated £119bn – an average of £18,473 per carer – the implications for already-stretched NHS resources if financial pressures mean carers are no longer able to continue their work simply do not bear thinking about.

It is why efforts to raise awareness of the assistance that is available to them must now be redoubled.

An ageing population means the role played by carers can only continue to grow in importance in the years to come.

And, given the value for money they represent – as well as the selfless dedication they show to those who depend on them for so much – the country has a responsibility to support them in their endeavours.

Floodgates open

DESPITE the all too predictable denouncements emanating from Brussels, David Cameron deserves great credit for putting his head above the parapet and proposing a renegotiation of the EU treaty regarding the free movement of people from one member state to another.

Although the move is certain to be challenged in the European Court, the Prime Minister is making an important stand – one that will resonate with countries across Europe whose already fragile economies are having to contend with an influx of migrants from poorer states.

It is one of a raft of measures to be unveiled in a bid to deter benefit tourists as Britain braces itself for the lifting of restrictions on Romanians and Bulgarians coming here to work from January 1.

The need for action is made even more pressing by figures published yesterday, which show that annual net migration into the country has risen for the first time in two years.

The inevitable arrival of thousands more eastern Europeans will place further pressure on schools, hospitals and roads. The 
one million British youngsters who are out 
of work will face even greater competition to 
find jobs.

Yet while the Prime Minister’s crackdown is welcome, albeit somewhat overdue, many of the measures being put in place merely mirror existing rules in relation to immigrants and benefit recipients. Others are vague or all but unworkable.

The truth, however hard to stomach, is that Britain’s hands are largely tied.

Only the EU itself – whose founders surely never envisaged such a large-scale exodus of people from poorer countries to wealthier ones – can provide an effective solution.

Given that it is an issue that has given rise to anti-EU feeling in many member states – not least here in Britain – the Brussels bureaucrats continue to ignore it at their peril.

Big cheeses

WHEN it comes to food, the French have a fondness for looking down their noses at a nation they disparagingly refer to as “Les Rosbifs”.

Yet just as the hosting of the opening stages of next year’s Tour de France will do much to change perceptions around the world in terms of what Britain, and more specifically Yorkshire, has to offer, so one of the region’s small businesses is doing its bit to set the record straight.

The success of the Courtyard Dairy in Settle in being named Cheese Counter of the Year at the World Cheese Awards reflects the high quality of Yorkshire’s local food producers and retailers.

Although the competition in this case came from other retailers across Britain, there can be little doubt that the cheeses on offer at Andy and Kathy Swinscoe’s shop could hold their own with any in the world.

And, if our friends from the other side of the Channel dispute this, we suggest they see for themselves by paying a trip to Settle when they hop across for next summer’s Tour stops.