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Unpaid Carer Katie talks about caring for her mother, the impact of the Cost-of-living Crisis and the support she received from Islington Carers Hub

The increased cost of energy, food and fuel are putting pressure on everyone. Unpaid carers are particularly vulnerable to the impact of rising costs due to their limited ability to earn an income and the additional costs they face in caring for someone, for example taking the person they care for to hospital, keeping their home at a safe minimum temperature, doing extra laundry and buying special food items.

Many people don’t think of themselves as ‘unpaid carers’ so miss out on support

Many people don’t think of themselves as ‘unpaid carers’ . They see themselves simply as a partner, family member or friend looking after someone they love. Do note that receiving carers allowance, doesn’t mean you are a paid carer. A paid carer is a domiciliary carer who receives an hourly salary. Even if someone realises they are an unpaid carer, they may not realise that they are entitled to a statutory carers assessment. Islington Carers Hub is commissioned by Islington Council to provide these assessments.

Caring for Mum

Carer Katie became a regular carer for her mother about 5 years ago, a couple of years before lock-down. She registered with Islington Carers Hub after someone mentioned it to her at Whittington Hospital. Her Mum became quite weak and frail following an illness and Katie became her main carer.

Katie works part-time on a zero-hours contract as a Mobile Repair Technician, for upholstery and furniture on behalf of big retailers. Working together with caring for her mum and other family commitments takes most of her time. “I do cooking, shopping, the washing, changing beds and admin for my mum. I am always back and forth. I take her out to the park and walk with her. I drive her up there, there are fantastic views and a café. I have periods where I am run down, but every now and again my children are quite good and can help give mum a boost.”

Whilst challenging at times, Katie still sees the positive side of being a carer

Whilst challenging at times, Katie still sees the positive side of being a carer. “People of the older generation are so precious and can bring great joy. They hold all the history.” However, Katie admits that there is little time for herself on top of all her other responsibilities.

How Islington Carers Hub has been able to help Katie

Speaking about the support that she has received from Islington Carers Hub. “I find the monthly e-newsletter helpful. It’s a reminder of all the aspects of caring together with what’s going on. It’s like reading a magazine exclusively for you!

“I have a lovely call from the hub to see how I’m getting on every now and then, and recently I had my annual carer’s review. I found it invaluable. There were lots of things that were coming up and I’d let some things slip, such as renewing my mum’s disabled badge.

“They also found that because I am on a zero-hours contract, I am likely to be eligible for Carers Allowance and they have helped me apply for that. I also didn’t know that my mum should be able to get Attendance Allowance. They helped bring everything up to date.

“With the prices of everything going up, I have been worried about my energy bills. I was also concerned about my mum who ended up falling behind with paying for her energy bills. Mum was eligible for a grant, which the Carers Hub helped apply for, and we now have a plan to sort out the remaining debt.

“When I first registered as an unpaid carer with Islington Carers Hub three years ago, I went through a carers assessment. This included questions about how caring affects me and my life. Following that, I was awarded a carers direct payment of £10 per week which I can use to spend on me. It’s not much, but enough to get a coffee out and a break in the day.”

Islington Carers Hub provides financial, practical and emotional support for unpaid carers looking after someone who is 18yrs+ who can’t cope without their support. They have seen an increase in the number of carers seeking information and support to help them manage financially.

Why carers are often in a Catch-22 situation

Islington Carers Hub Team Lead, Torpekai Boukens explained that “Quite often unpaid carers are in a Catch 22 situation. Sometimes if they increase their working hours, they will be worried about the cost of bringing in paid carers and potentially losing Carers Allowance. Another common scenario is where people are unsure if they should claim Carers Allowance because of the possible impact on the benefits of the person that they’re caring for. At Islington Carers Hub, we can provide broad guidance on these types of issues, and then help the carer to access further support from specialists where needed. We can also help with applications to get a break from caring and for carers on low incomes, help them manage their energy costs.”

Do you look after a friend, partner or relative? Are you affected by the rising Cost of Living?

Katie is one of many Islington carers who have faced financial worries at this time when the prices of energy and food are going up.

If you need some help and support, or simply some advice on what services are available for you and those you care for, please do get in touch with us.

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