Hidden army of Leeds carers is missing out on millions

DARING TO CARE: Carer Annie Dransfield.
DARING TO CARE: Carer Annie Dransfield.
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Thousands of Leeds people who look after their loved ones full time are being financially penalised because they “dare to care”, campaigners claimed today. (Nov 29)

New research, published to coincide with national Carers’ Rights Day today, has revealed that in Leeds alone, 3,635 carers are losing out on more than £11 million annually in benefits.

In Leeds, Wakefield and Kirklees, almost 8,500 carers are missing out on more than £26 million of unclaimed Carer’s Allowance, leading many to struggle to pay their bills.

Campaigner Annie Dransfield, from Farsley, who cares full time for her disabled son as well as her elderly parents, said many carers were either not aware of their benefit entitlements, or did not claim the £59.75 weekly sum because it could mean the cared-for person having their own allowances deducted.

Mrs Dransfield, 59, who recently won the YEP’s Carer of the Year award at the Best of Health Awards and is also a trustee of the Carers UK charity, slammed “counterproductive and contradictory” Government policy which she said “gives with one hand but takes away with the other”.

“Thousands of carers are being penalised for daring to care,” she said.

“I am caring over 35 hours a week. You are on call 24-7, it’s a full-time job and more. I stopped teaching several years ago to care full time because my son’s needs became more complex.

“There are thousands of hidden carers, a hidden workforce, who probably won’t know what they are entitled to, and we want to reach out to them.

“Why are the Government not recognising carers? We are bearing the brunt of the cost of caring.”

Mrs Dransfield’s son James, 35, gets help 10 hours a week from agency staff, but the rest of the time, his mum looks after him.

“Agencies can cost £15 an hour, the Government is happy to pay that,” she said. “But I can’t claim my carer’s allowance because I have been told it will be deducted from my son’s benefits.

“You are having to scrimp and scrape all the time.”

Mrs Dransfield fears that for thousands of carers, matters are becoming “desperate”, and if things continue as they are, the full burden of care will fall back on the state with added cost.

Helena Herklots, chief executive of Carers UK, said: “If carers have been forced to give up work, just as the family face all the extra household and transport costs of caring, this can rapidly push carers into debt and hardship. This financial pressure is often exacerbated by a lack of advice for carers leading to long delays in them accessing essential support like Carer’s Allowance. It is vital that anyone caring for a loved one seeks advice to check they are getting all the financial help they are entitled to.”

The charity’s research claims there are over 6.5 million carers in the UK, and they save the economy £119 bn per year. The main carers’ benefit, Carer’s Allowance, is £59.75 for a minimum of 35 hours – equivalent to £1.71 an hour.

Visit: www.carersuk.org or call the Carers UK Adviceline 0808 808 7777.

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