'Which party will care for the carers?'

Chris Naylor put his arm around his partner Allie Dean
Image caption,

Chris Naylor cares for his partner Allie Dean who had a stroke in 2019

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A carer from East Sussex says he feels people looking after loved ones are "being abused" by the benefits system.

Chris Naylor cares for his partner Allie Dean who had a stroke in 2019.

Ms Dean has written in to the BBC’s Your Voice Your Vote, asking which party will support carers.

She returned home after treatment and rehabilitation in August 2020. Mr Naylor left his job to become her full-time carer.

She said: "Chris does everything for me. He’s given me my home back, he gives me love and support, he’s everything."

The couple live in East Dean, near Eastbourne and receive Carer’s Allowance of £81.90 a week.

Mr Naylor said: "Money is probably the biggest issue, we wish we could afford private physio maybe, to improve her condition."

Instead "there’s a constant worry about being able to pay the bills", he said.

As recipients of Universal Credit, Carer’s Allowance is deducted from the benefit.

Mr Naylor said it is "frustrating" and that "if anybody thinks that £81 a week goes far it really doesn’t, so maybe it could be increased… but I think we should be allowed to have that money as recognition for what we do.

"I feel like we’re being abused in a way."

Ms Dean said: "I hate to watch what Chris is going through, the stress that he has day-to-day looking after me, making sure I’ve got everything I need and on top of that mountains of paperwork, it’s just so difficult to watch it."

'Everything is a battle'

There are an estimated 69,241 unpaid carers in East Sussex. Across the South East, over 380,000 people are believed to be providing care to family or friends.

Unpaid carers in England and Wales contribute £162 billion per year to the economy according to Carers UK.

Katy Styles, from Canterbury, is the founder of the We Care Campaign which she began in 2018.

She believes carers are "exhausted from having to fight for everything they need for themselves and for the people they care for", and added "everything is a battle".

Image caption,

Katy Styles is the founder of the We Care Campaign

The campaign has set out five points it would like to see in party manifestos, including a national carer’s strategy.

Ms Styles said: "I would hope that somebody would see the need for a strategy, an overarching strategy, that would identify support and show other departments within government how important carers are, what their needs would be and how to meet them."

The Department for Work and Pensions says carers may be eligible for financial support through Universal Credit.

What do the parties say?

In their manifesto, the Conservatives say they have increased Carer’s Allowance by almost £1,500 since 2010 and have given carers an entitlement of unpaid leave.

They say they will support unpaid carers.

The Liberal Democrats say they want to "revolutionise" the care system and alleviate pressure on the NHS by providing free personal care for everyone who needs it.

They also said they would increase Carers Allowance by £20 a week and change rules on how much carers can earn.

The Green Party said it has found new investment of £20 billion – enough to introduce free personal care.

They would also increase pay rates for professional carers.

Reform UK said it would begin a Royal Commission of Inquiry into the social care system to form a national plan between government, local authorities and home carer support groups.

The party said more funding will be required when a national plan is agreed.

Labour are launching their manifesto on Thursday but have so far said a National Carers Strategy is needed to prioritise carers’ wellbeing and they want reform and investment in social care.

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