Wales' unpaid carers to get one-off £500 payment for 'pivotal role' played in pandemic

  • Video report by ITV Wales News Reporter Mike Griffiths

Thousands of unpaid carers in Wales will get a one-off £500 payment in recognition of the "pivotal role" they played during the coronavirus pandemic.

Just over 57,000 of Wales' estimated 370,000 carers will receive the cash boost. It comes as part of a £29 million package announced by the Welsh Government.

The one-off payment has been criticised by the Welsh Conservatives, who said it "diminishes the hard work carers put in over a lifetime".

During the pandemic, more than three quarters of unpaid carers said they were "exhausted and worn out", according to a Carers Wales report.

Many carers have been without crucial services they would usually rely on for well over a year - meaning they are providing many hours of additional care for loved ones with increasing needs.

Though some services have resumed, unpaid carers now face being hit harder by the cost of living crisis.

Unpaid carers are expected to be hit harder by the cost of living crisis. Credit: PA Images

Julie Morgan MS, Deputy Social Services Minister, said she hoped the payment would "show how much we value and appreciate what they do".

"Unpaid carers have played a pivotal role throughout the pandemic and we recognise the financial and emotional hardships they have experienced," she said.

"I hope this £500 payment will go some way to supporting them during these difficult times."

Anyone receiving carer's allowance on March 31 will be eligible to claim from the fund later this year.

To qualify for carer's allowance, individuals must spend at least 35 hours a week caring, care for someone who is in receipt of certain benefits and earn no more than £128 a week.

Figures from the Department for Work and Pensions show 57,130 people are in receipt of carers allowance in Wales.

Julie Morgan met with Marie Jones, an unpaid carer who will benefit from the £500 payment. Credit: Welsh Government

Ms Morgan added: "We understand not all unpaid carers will be eligible for this payment, as many are not in receipt of a carer's allowance, and we will continue supporting carers of all ages in every way we can."

Nearly half of more than 1,500 unpaid carers who were recently surveyed said they have had to use their personal savings and give up work or study to care, the Welsh Government.

More than half said they have had to give up on hobbies or personal interests because of their caring role.

Unpaid carers are also likely to be exposed to greater financial pressures than others, due to caring for people with complex needs combined with the current cost of living crisis.

The Welsh Conservatives said providing free access to training, support and carer assessments would be "far more valuable" than the one-off payment.

Gareth Davies MS, Shadow Social Services Minister, added: "Unpaid carers deserve a break – but telling them to be satisfied with a modest one-off payment when long-term solutions are needed is short-sighted."

Statistics show that Wales' unpaid carers have struggled with additional pressures during the pandemic Credit: PA

The highest rate of unpaid carers is in Neath Port Talbot, where 267 out of every 10,000 people are receiving carer's allowance.

Monmouthshire has the lowest rate of unpaid carers, with 112 out of every 10,000 in receipt of the benefit.

Carers Wales director Claire Morgan praised the move and called it "an important first step in actively recognising carers' daily contribution to our society".

Simon Hatch, director of Carers Trust Wales, said: "Unpaid carers have been on the front line throughout the pandemic and this payment is recognition of the many hours of care they've given alongside the efforts of the paid workforce.

"This is a first step towards addressing some of the concerns we've heard from unpaid carers across Wales, spanning from before the pandemic, about their daily struggles to make ends meet."