Unpaid carers appeal to Scottish Government ahead of tomorrow’s budget

Leanne Mckenzie

Tomorrow, the Scottish Government budget will be unveiled, a full 5 weeks before its Westminster equivalent

It has been described by industry chiefs as ‘one of the most important in our lifetimes’ as it will outline the government’s economic plan for Covid recovery.

Scottish women’s organisations have mobilised in support of unpaid carers who they feel have been disproportionately impacted by the effects of Covid-19.

In their pre-budget parliamentary briefing, the Scottish Women’s Budget Group appealed to the government for more support for unpaid carers saying “significant investment is needed in the care system due to reduction in social care packages, reduction in respite care and closure of childcare”

Before the pandemic women were responsible for 60% of unpaid care work in Scotland, with 1 in 4 carers living in poverty.

During the pandemic unpaid care work drastically increased, with women, black and ethnic minority communities and disabled people economically hit hardest by the crisis.

Alexis is from Irvine. She cares for her 89 year old mother Etta, who lives close by.

Etta has dementia

Alexis told me the most difficult part of the pandemic had been the closures of day centres, which had left her mother without outside stimulus.

Day Centres for the Elderly have been closed since the first lockdown began in March 2020.Respite Care has also been unavailable meaning carers now receive very little relief from their daily work.

Kate also lives in Irvine and home educates her son, who has difficulties with social skills. She told me:

“I’m self employed and lost a lot of my work at the beginning of the last lockdown, its difficult to get work around the edges of what I do [home education]…so I’m heavily dependent on Universal Credit”

In August 2020 the Scottish government introduced extra support funds for low income families during the pandemic. Those who qualify receive £10 per week on top of their existing benefits.

But Kate can’t access these – home schooling families are not eligible.

In a treasury meeting yesterday, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak – in response to a question about mothers who are working while dealing with childcare responsibilities said:

“We owe mums everywhere an enormous debt of thanks for juggling childcare responsibilities alongside other duties during the pandemic.”

Women on twitter responded in their droves saying that thanking women for their unpaid labour just isn’t enough.

Emma Rich of Engender Scotland responded in a tweet:

Engender Scotland is a feminist policy and advocacy organisation. Their recent report on the impact of Covid-19 on women carers warns the Scottish government to avoid rolling back Scottish women’s equality and rights in the wake of the Pandemic. They comment:

“the Scottish Government and other public bodies must consider the role of unpaid care as they plan the ways in which economic recovery and the safe delivery of transport, education, childcare, and other public services will be achieved.”

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