Third of carers in Northern Ireland living in poverty

A woman who cares for her son and husband has described how the cost-of-living crisis is putting such a strain on her finances she is struggling to scrape together the few pence needed for basic essentials.

The woman, who asked not to be named, can't work because of her caring commitments. Her son, who has complex needs and her husband require attention 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

She has been forced to go to her family and friends for support.  

"I call it begging," she told UTV.

"I put my begging hat on and it takes a lot out of me to actually do that. Begging from family or even friends can you sub me to Monday and then Monday comes and you pay that back and you realise you are sitting again with very little or nothing.

"Our benefits are not meeting the needs and basic needs... We're going without.

"For me personally as a woman and personal care products. People will watch this and think sure care products are a few pence. A few pence is a few pence in this house. I have actually had to make my own to get myself through times of the month. That's really how bad it gets."

New figures from Carers NI reveal more people are being forced into poverty.

There are more than 290,000 unpaid carers in Northern Ireland with around 48,500 receiving a carers' allowance.

That allowance is designed not to be an income and has a very strict earnings threshold.Nearly half (46%) of unpaid carers who receive the allowance say they are struggling to make ends meet. And just under three out of 10 are living in poverty - the highest rate of carer poverty in the UK.

Of all those that responded to the survey, 44% said they were worried about heating the home.

"They talk about a carers' allowance. I don't even call it that. To me it's a slap in the face," the mother of one continued.

She relies on foodbanks and said once after all her bills were paid she was left with £12.32 a week to live off and still had to buy medical supplies for her son.

"Let me keep my meter topped up so I know I'm not going to run out of electric," she added."Let me put oil in my tank so I can keep my family warm.  Let me put food in my cupboards so I can keep us all well. Basic human needs and we can't afford them."

Carers NI is calling for an overhaul of the benefits system to help support families. That includes new or increased welfare benefits, dedicated energy payments, flexible working rights to allow more carers to stay in employment and much more.

Craig Harrison, the charity's policy manager added: "Our carer population are crying out for help.

"The don't ask for a great deal when you compare it to the contribution they make and the money they are saving. All they want is a decent standard of living".