A man forced to give up his job to become a full time carer has today accused the Government of exploiting kindness.
Richard Burnside, 50, from Carrickfergus, Co Antrim, had to quit his well paid manufacturing job in 2007 when his wife’s multiple sclerosis condition deteriorated.
Mr Burnside, who now lives on the £58-a-week allowance topped up by £100 earned through a part-time hotel job, has called for carers’ benefits to be increased.
“£58-a-week - that is way below the minimum wage,” he said.
“People do not realise the financial restraints that carers are under.
“But the Government knows that people will care for their loved ones no matter what so carers are always way down the list.”
Mr Burnside is one of 214,000 full time carers in Northern Ireland who are having to cope with increasing financial pressures.
The former Shorts factory sheet metal worker said he had no choice but to give up work.
He added: “It was just too much to try and hold down a full time job and caring full time as well. So, in 2007 I had to leave. Shorts did try to work with me and accommodate me but it was just too much. So, after 23 years I had to leave.
“You were coming home after a day’s work and having to prepare everything in the house as well as help Susan out. She has good, bad and very bad days but we always try to keep looking on the bright side of things.”
Campaigners, who have launched an inquiry into the true cost of being a carer, have said the state benefit should be increased to more than £100 so people can cope with the spiralling prices.
The Carers UK Caring and Family Finances Inquiry will provide a analysis of the financial impact of caring, as well as assessing the impact of Government’s changes to the benefits system on carers and their families.
Mr Burnside added: “Over the last 20 years the carers allowance has gone up by very little. It has risen about 50 pence a day but, I think a loaf of bread has gone up by about 50 pence in the last year-and-a-half. Then there is petrol, diesel and oil - everything is going up. It is not an easy situation.”