Bring in paid carers’ leave 'without delay': Derry & Strabane Council calls on NI Assembly to act

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Derry City and Strabane District Council members have urged Assembly Ministers to improve pay and support for carers.

A motion, put forward by SDLP councillor Catherine McDaid at a Full Council Meeting on Wednesday, April 24, proposed writing to the Minister for the Economy, Conor Murphy, calling on him to introduce legislation that guarantees at least five days of paid carers’ leave “without delay”.

Additionally, the Council will write to the Minister for Communities, Gordon Lyons, calling on him to work with the Minister of Finance, Caoimhe Archibald, to raise the Carer’s Allowance earnings threshold to the equivalent of 21 hours per week at the National Living Wage.

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“The council recognises the immense contribution unpaid carers make to society,” the proposal added. “And expresses grave concern at the lack of support provided to those unpaid carers who are frequently forced to juggle caring responsibilities and employment.

SDLP Councillor Catherine McDaid.SDLP Councillor Catherine McDaid.
SDLP Councillor Catherine McDaid.

“We welcome the introduction of legislation to expand the rights of unpaid carers in Britain and will engage with local employers, carers and carer organisations to raise awareness of unpaid caring within the workplace.”

Councillor McDaid said there were over 220,000 unpaid carers in Northern Ireland, providing “care and support to sick friends and relatives” and saving Northern Ireland’s public purse £5.8 billion every year.

Sixty percent of unpaid carers are women and one in three unpaid carers have been forced to leave work entirely because of caring demands, she added.

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“We often talk about regional balance in economic investment here, but what are we doing to look after our workforce and ensure people can remain in jobs they worked hard to get and love?

“Britain has introduced new legislation which will give carers the right to five days’ unpaid leave. The Carers’ Leave Act is the absolute minimum that should be introduced here, but we need to go a step further. Our Government should be leading the way and providing paid leave for carers.

“We should be calling on our Minster for Economy to give serious consideration to those hundreds of thousands of carers who are unable to stay in work.

“Carer’s Allowance is also just not acceptable, as the threshold is currently at £151 per week and one penny paid over this limit means a carer loses their entire Allowance payment.

"This is an example of the Government having its cake and eating it; insisting that Carer’s Allowance isn’t an income replacement, but tying eligibility to a carer’s weekly income.

“Increasing the thresholds to the equivalent of 21 hours a week, at the National Living Wage, would allow more carers to earn a meaningful wage while keeping their allowance payments.”

Andrew Balfour,

Local Democracy Reporter