Act now to end poverty for carers, paid and unpaid

Today we have written to every MP and AM across Wales, along with politicians across the UK, with a simple message: act now to end poverty for carers, paid and unpaid.

The COVID-19 pandemic has underlined the importance of care, something each of us depends on at some point in our life. Most of Oxfam’s work focuses on developing countries, but we want to tackle poverty everywhere, including in the UK. To do that, it’s impossible to ignore the link to care.

Even before the Coronavirus hit, too many carers – both paid and unpaid – were living in poverty. It wasn’t right then, and it certainly isn’t now. Women deliver most of care and are therefore particularly impacted.

In Wales, there are more than 370,000 carers, and 58% are women. As this pandemic unfolds, carers organisations and unions are strongly, and rightly, highlighting how carers are placing themselves and their families at enhanced risk of contracting the virus, sometimes without the equipment they need. The last thing carers need is the added worry about poverty.

Today we publish two UK-wide reports focused on this issue, both of which strongly feature the voices and views of carers. Make Care Count examines the pre-pandemic link between care and poverty, while our supplementary briefing, Care, Poverty and Coronavirus Across Britain, demonstrates how COVID-19 is exacerbating that problem. While we recognise there has been action to cushion the impact on people’s incomes across the UK, we must do more to ensure social security protects everyone from poverty, including carers. We must also ensure those employed to deliver care receive at least the real Living Wage, alongside fairer, more flexible contracts.

We have more to do to value care work more highly, while sharing it more fairly and ensuring those delivering it have the flexibility they need, mindful many people juggle paid work and education with unpaid caring.

In recent weeks, we are seeing the upsurge in solidarity shown by people across the country, who’ve taken to their doorsteps to clap for key workers, including carers.

Together, we must do more to support those doing so much to protect so many.