Falkirk carers facing huge debts

Centre manager Agnes McMillan is concerned over financial hardship for carers. Picture: Michael Gillen (140279b)
Centre manager Agnes McMillan is concerned over financial hardship for carers. Picture: Michael Gillen (140279b)

Carers who look after sick loved ones are creating mountains of debt as they struggle to make ends meet on state benefits.

A year-long investigation by Carers Scotland showed that one in six carers has debts of more than £10,000, despite them saving the government millions every year.

The charity’s Caring and Family Finances research found that carers – many of them forced to give up their own careers – are struggling to cope with the loss of income, savings and benefits, with almost half of the country’s carers owing money.

The Princess Royal Trust Carers Centre in Falkirk say it is a growing problem for the local carers it helps.

Manager Agnes McMillan said: “At the Carers Centre, we see local carers on a daily basis who are experiencing financial hardship. Often carers have to give up work to care for a family member, becoming dependent on benefits to support themselves and their families.

“We welcome the launch of the Carer Poverty Charter and the benefits it could potentially bring to carers in Falkirk.”

Sharon Campbell, carer information and support team leader at the centre, said: “One woman we help, who cares for her son, had particular trouble.

“Her review letter went missing and she ended up losing her carer’s allowance and income support because of it, which meant there was effectively no money coming into her household.

“It takes a long time to get these re-instated and in the meantime she had to access food from the foodbank and get a crisis loan to see her through.

“This was at Christmas. We had to help her out with Christmas presents. People can really be hit hard.”

Carers Scotland is campaigning for urgent reform of the financial help available to carers. The main carers’ benefit, carer’s allowance, is currently £59.75 a week for a minimum of 35 hours caring – equivalent to £1.67 an hour.

Simon Hodgson, director of Carers Scotland, said: “Those caring, unpaid, for loved ones save society vast sums, but at huge personal cost - a cost this Inquiry shows is pushing families to the brink.”

The Department of Work and Pensions said it is spending £2 billion on carer’s allowance this year and has promised more in the future.