First Minister must not fail pandemic heroes

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The First Minister must ‘put his money where his mouth is’ and ensure that Wales’ carers are placed at the heart of the country’s pandemic recovery plan, Oxfam Cymru has said.

In a letter to Mark Drakeford, the anti-poverty charity says that without urgent action the nation’s carers, who the First Minister called ‘heroes’ during the height of the coronavirus crisis, could be left languishing in poverty for years, with their invaluable contribution to the fight against coronavirus forgotten as a ‘footnote of history’.

Oxfam Cymru’s challenge comes as it publishes a new briefing which lays out 14 steps the Welsh Government should take to place people with caring responsibilities at the heart of a just, caring, feminist and green pandemic recovery while protecting them from poverty.

The charity says without bold action to fully value and invest in care work, both paid and unpaid, it will be impossible for the Welsh Government to tackle poverty and gender inequality.

Oxfam Cymru’s recommendations include boosting investment in the social care sector and bolstering the social security system to better protect carers, including:

• Progressively raising new revenue, for example, through a Welsh social care levy, and using it to significantly boost investment in the sector to protect paid care workers from poverty and to relieve pressure on unpaid carers;
• Making it easier for unpaid carers to leave poverty through entering and sustaining paid employment, by increasing expectations on employers to provide a supportive environment as part of the commitment to ‘Fair Work’, bolstering voluntary accreditation schemes and making access to public funds conditional on progress to achieve this;
• Supporting those caring for children to secure and sustain decent work by boosting access to high-quality, accessible and flexible publicly funded childcare from six months (including disabled children and children with additional learning needs), to all parents, including non-working parents;
• Placing the voices and experiences of people with caring responsibilities, and those supported by them, at the heart of this transformation.

While the charity welcomes emergency measures put in place by Ministers to help support carers during the pandemic, it says that a step-change is still urgently needed in how all those with caring responsibilities are valued in Wales.

Oxfam Cymru says that despite their incredible efforts during the pandemic, people who care for others – whether at home or professionally – are more likely to live in poverty, with the coronavirus crisis compounding the hardship they face. The organisation is calling on the First Minister to intervene and ‘right this wrong’.

Oxfam Cymru is calling for the Welsh Government to use its devolved powers to their full potential to protect carers from poverty.

The organisation says that investing in care would help narrow gender equalities and build a greener future for Wales, citing research carried out by the Women’s Budget Group which predicts that investment in lower carbon sectors such as social care could produce double the number of jobs as the same investment in the construction sector.

Rachel Cable, Head of Oxfam Cymru, said: “During the height of the pandemic, the First Minister joined the people of Wales in clapping loudly for the nation’s carers; rightly recognising them as the glue holding our country together. He cannot fail them now. Instead, he must put his money where his mouth is and ensure that carers are placed at the heart of Wales’ recovery.

“For far too long carers, most of whom are women, have been taken for granted and left to languish in poverty. It’s time to right this wrong. The Welsh Government must implement the urgent, concrete steps needed to value and invest in care not only because it is the right thing to do, but because care, in all its forms, underpins our society, and our economy.

“There can be no national renewal if carers are, once again, left behind. A just, green and feminist recovery from Covid must be a caring one too. The solidarity people have shown with carers and other key workers during the coronavirus crisis cannot become a footnote of history; it must be a catalyst for change.”

Oxfam Cymru’s report follows a joint call made by over 100 organisations from across Britain – including 18 in Wales – for political leaders to do more to protect both unpaid and paid carers from poverty.

For more information and interviews, please contact: Rebecca Lozza, Media and Communications Officer, Oxfam: / 07917738450

Notes to Editors
• Read Oxfam Cymru’s briefing Care, Poverty and Coronavirus in Wales here:
• Read the Welsh language version here: