The system works against people who take care of others

Posted in: Your Views: What Parents Say

Dear MAHM,

I wanted to thank you for the campaigning you do on behalf of volunteer carers like myself (I am a stay at home mum by choice, on the principle that children need a mother for at least the first three years of life). For a long time I felt utterly unrepresented by the media and politicians, and I am so glad to have a voice through you.

I also wanted to offer you the case study of my mother, in case you need an example of how the system works against unpaid carers.

My mother gave up a good job to raise myself and my two siblings. She raised very responsible, caring young people  – I am a mother myself now, my middle sister is a doctor, and the youngest is embarking on a career in photography. 

During her time out of work she also volunteered in our school, assisted my father in his business (unpaid), and became carer to my grandmother and grandfather. When my grandmother developed alzheimers my mother took her into her home and cared for her full time for over a year, at great personal cost, and saving the government a fortune. 

For a period during my mother’s life she suffered from chronic fatigue. It was when she could have returned to work, boosting my parents’ income (which was marginal since my father became a church minister, giving up his accountancy practice). While supporting us through university, my mother applied for disability benefits, but was refused because her national insurance contribution was not sufficient.

This really angered me. My mother has contributed massively to our society and yet she is not considered worth supporting during her own time of need. Her impact upon many lives has been incalculable, not just mine and my sisters’,  but also my grandparents, other children, members of my father’s church, and others. If you counted up the hours of paid work she has saved the government it would come to several years’ wages (if you want to work on their terms). But far greater is her contribution in non-financial terms – love, personal support and sacrifice.

I have followed in my mother’s footsteps and gave up work (and NI contributions because they dented our income too much) to raise my children. I also help care for my grandfather now that my grandmother has passed on. Yet I know that in the future, should I need government support, it may well not be there, despite the fact that my husband has worked and paid his taxes faithfully. I feel very strongly that families ought to be taken as a unit, income and tax counted jointly. 

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