Millions of caregivers juggling employment with sick parents would be given more legal protection and money to help them get by under the plans proposed by Liberal Democrat Ed Davey.
The party’s interim leader is presenting a five-point plan for the nation’s caregivers as part of his ambition to take full-time work this summer.
The Kingston and Surbiton MP wants caring to become a “protected characteristic” under the Equality Act 2010, which means that discrimination against them at work would be punishable by the same penalty as racism, sexism and homophobia.
His intervention comes at the end of Caregiver’s Week, which aims to highlight the struggle of 6.5 million volunteers who care for an elderly or disabled family member or friend, or a mental or physical illness.
By putting his own hours as a caregiver for his mother when he was a boy, he also asks that they be given more money in the form of an increase in the caregiver’s allowance and an increase in the threshold for stopping payment.
He also wants young caregivers to be allowed to travel free of charge on public transport.
Mr. Davey, 54, and his brother cared for his terminally ill mother for three years before she died as a teenager. His father died when the future politician was only four years old. Mr. Davey also has a 12-year-old son, John, who is disabled.
He said: “We desperately need a new agreement for our caregivers. I believe that we need to build a more caring society, and that starts with adequately supporting our own caregivers.
The Member for Kingston and Surbiton wants caring to become a “protected characteristic” under the Equality Act 2010, which means that discrimination against them would have the same legal basis as racism, sexism and homophobia.
“we ask so many of them, and then give them so little, and that has to change.
“I was my mother’s caregiver when I was a teenager, and I am now a parent of a disabled child, so I understand more than most of the struggles and challenges that caregivers face.
“It’s time we did more to support them in these challenges, which is why I’m out of my five-point plan for caregivers today.
“My plan would give them more money, provide more legal protection at work and give young caregivers the right to travel for free. Together, this package would be a great step forward for our community of caregivers. It’s time we started caring about our caregivers.
Mr. Davey’s five-point plan is:
- Self-help has made it a protected feature of the Equality Act, providing caregivers with increased protection in the workplace and beyond
- Force employers to make “reasonable adjustments to caregivers” as they would for staff with disabilities, to allow people to combine care and employment.
- A boost to the allowance for caregivers at 75 euros per week, an increase of 12% from the current level of 67.25 euros
- Increase the amount that a caregiver can earn before losing on the carer’s allowance from 128 euros per week to 160 euros per week, giving them greater work flexibility.
- Young caregivers would benefit from a free trip on all public transport
Education critic Layla Moran is also the party’s new leader
Wera Hobhouse, the party’s environment spokeswoman, is also in the running, although the election for the leadership election has not yet been close.
According to the charity Carers UK, half of working-age carers live in a home where no one has a paid job, with 1.2 million of them living in poverty.
Earlier this week, Mr. Davey introduced legislation in the House of Commons to give caregivers more rights to flexible work, which helps them balance employment with care responsibilities.
The Equality Act 2010 currently requires employers to make “reasonable adjustments” for people with disabilities to help them work, which may include physical adjustments as well as adjustments such as a more flexible approach to work.
The bill would extend this requirement to caregivers who care for people with disabilities, allowing them to better balance care and work.
Earlier this week, Helen Walker, chief executive of Carers UK, said some 2.8 million workers began caring for their loved ones during the pandemic.
“Being able to work flexibly and have reasonable adjustments at work can make a big difference to unpaid caregivers, helping them not only stay at work, but also reduce stress levels and improve their health,” she said.
“As we emerge from the pandemic, it is imperative that the UK government and employers take action to support the growing number of caregivers”
Mr. Davey has been interim leader of the Liberal Democrats since Jo Swinson lost his seat in December’s general election, in which the party failed to make gains, despite high hopes of rebounding from years of stagnation since the Coalition summit.
So far, he is against education spokeswoman Layla Moran and Wera Hobhouse, the party’s environment spokesman. The new leader will be chosen on August 27 after a leadership campaign that has been extended due to the coronaviris pandemic.
Earlier this week, Ms. Moran made her own speech to caregivers, calling for a new support package funded by reversing inheritance tax cuts.
It would include an increase of 8.50 euros in the carer’s allowance in England and Wales to match recent changes in Scotland and an additional one-time cash bonus of 250 euros to cover the difficulties caused by coronavirus