I’ve come to the conclusion that society as a whole simply doesn’t give a damn about the plight of carers like me. I include governments and politicians in that assessment. Because if society did care, there would be protests on the street helping advocate for our rights and indeed those of the disabled, incapacitated, family members we work around the clock to care for and keep out of hospitals (note: which in turn helps keep hospitals free for you and your family members).
I get half-rate Carers Allowance. I can’t get full rate because as a lone parent I get that social welfare payment. Let me stop at this point and say how humiliating and degrading I find it personally to be on welfare. I did not put myself through university to earn a BA and then a Master’s Degree, all while working full time, so I could give up my career and live in poverty on welfare.
I hate it.
But, back to my point. Half-rate Carer’s Allowance in Ireland is €109.50 per week. That is what I get paid to provide nursing-level, around the clock care to my profoundly disabled, medically fragile, life-limited teenage son who is now considered an adult.
€109.50 per week.
If I were to break that down to 40 hours a week of work – which by the way is completely unrealistic as it is literally 24/7 – that would equate to €2.73 per hour.
Let that sink in: €2.73 per hour.
Now consider the average starting pay at McDonald’s is €10.51 per hour. (see here)
My first job at 16 years of age was at a fast food place. Never in my life did I imagine that at nearly 56 years of age I’d be “earning” a fraction of that at this stage of my life. I’ll mention again the humiliation.
I have 17 years experience as a carer now and am a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA). The work (and yes, it is WORK) I do every day is nursing-level work. End of. In hospital, it is only a nurse – or actually, two nurses – who are allowed to carry out the work I do at home…alone.
So let’s talk pay. I’ve written countless times about carers and pay, but it clearly needs said again: We work, we are drowning financially (and other ways) and we must be recognised with proper, fair, equitable remuneration.
There are a few ways this could happen, but the most ideal way in my opinion is to have carers like me, who provide nursing-level care, be trained and certified as Health Care Assistants, then employed by the HSE and paid a salary complete with the benefits package of any other HCA in a hospital setting. (This is the model program from Colorado where I was trained and certified as a CNA mentioned above). The starting salary here is €30,921 annually (see here). That breaks down to approximately €14.87 per hour for a 40 hour work week. Time for the reminder that carers like me “earn” €2.73 per hour for nursing-level work.
If carers were employed, not only would it provide more financial stability, but it would allow us to pay for necessities which we can’t currently afford, everything from hiring someone to mow the lawn because we can’t get to it, to house and vehicle repairs, to paying for the mental health counselling we need for the depression the majority of us are challenged with, to saving for our hoped for one day retirement years. And as employed people, we could apply for credit, for loans and build a more secure life for our families.
As it stands now, carers live in poverty, unable to do any of those things…which even someone flipping burgers at McDonald’s can far better afford to do.
I started this blog piece saying society, governments, and politicians don’t really give a damn about the plight of carers. I’ll end this piece by saying this: If that statement offends you, if you DO give a damn, then please help advocate on our behalf. Contact your local TD. Contact the relevant Ministers in government. Organise a protest (because so many of us carers can’t get the time away from caring work to do that). Share this piece on social media.
But please, if you do give a damn, do something.