I Couldn't Care Less: Wages of Sin

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A hypodermic needle and a vial

Wages of Sin

Do you know what I discovered this week? Carers allowance is now means tested, that’s what I found out. Carers allowance is the small amount of money paid to carers (if they do enough caring) and means testing, in case you’re not clear, is the business of paying you the money or otherwise giving you the benefit only if you earn/own at or below the threshold amount of money permitted. I should clarify that I’m not absolutely certain that it wasn’t always means tested, although I’m pretty sure. Either way, it’s appalling, and it’s time we got some facts in order to sort it out.

You may have noticed that I, amongst others, am in the habit of going on about how carers save you money. You may have wondered why this is. Basically (VERY basically) it’s because the state has an obligation to care for its citizens. If we don’t do it for you, the state and its hospitals and social workers and general welfare infrastructure would have to do it and incur all the costs of time and money this requires. So from our point of view we’re doing what we would naturally do for our friends and family, but from your point of view we’re doing a job for you lot free of charge. Every hour of work done by a carer in the UK is an hour you don’t have to pay for. That’s point one.

The second point is that to get carers allowance you have to be doing at least 35 hours caring a week in order to qualify. So that’s 34 hours caring work we’re doing for free. Don’t be mistaken, just because we’re doing a job we’re willing to do, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be paid for it. At current minimum wage (£6.31 an hour) 35 hours’ work would cost you at least £220 a week. In fact carers allowance is £61.35 a week, or £1.75 an hour. That is, of course, assuming you’re not too superbly well paid to get it at all. It is, just to reiterate, still work we’re doing for you. Still, I suppose if I earned enough money to be able to afford to give away 35hs a week on voluntary work that would be okay. It’d have to work part time, obviously, because 35 hours is near enough a full time job. Obviously I’d have to be earning what…. £30,000 a year maybe? I don’t know, what does the Government think? They reckon it’s okay if you’re earning £102 a week, which amounts to a little over £5,000 a year. To get this you’d have to do 16 hours at minimum wage, so any less than 16 hours and you could claim. Unless you were signing on for job seekers allowance (which you can do if you’re working less than 16 hours a week) or, well, a host of other benefits too numerous to list. You can still claim, but those other benefits might be cut.

So there you are. I’m actually a bit more appalled than I was when I started writing. It’s pretty well as close to not giving you any support as you can get while actually, technically, offering support. It’s more of a slap in the face than not offering any money in the first place, and it’s taking advantage of the good will of the people doing difficult and demanding work. I know they treat everybody like this, which is why firemen and teachers are so pilloried when they dare to go on strike. Nobody seems to realise that if these people are so damn valuable (which they are) then they should be far too well looked after to want to strike in the first place. You know that argument about how we have to pay bankers well in order to keep the top talent in the country? Well that argument should be applied to doctors, and nurses, and teachers and firemen. And carers.

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