As well as celebrations on World Autism Awareness Day on 2 April, there came news of the hidden cost for carers of someone with autism.
It emerged that up to two million people have left themselves burdened with major financial pressure. The hardship started after they gave up work to care for a loved one.
The charity Carers UK is now calling on the British government to introduce a right to 5-10 days of paid care leave a year.
Caring and working
They believe the policy would enable carers to better balance caring and working commitments.
Carers should also be exempt from any moves to raise the state pension age from 67 to 68, the charity said.
John Cridland, the former director of the Confederation of British Industry, has carried out a review of the state pension age. He recommended introducing five days of carers’ leave.
He also suggested the pension age needs to rise to 68 by 2039. However, he recommended an exemption for carers.
Carers UK said Cridland’s recommendations should form part of the Government’s Carers Strategy. The document is due for publication this spring.
Heléna Herklots is chief executive of Carers UK. She said: “The huge contribution that carers make to society by providing care to the value of £132bn a year must be better reflected in the financial support provided to them.”
She said Cridland’s report “rightly recognises” that health and care systems depend on the support that carers provide. She added that, in return, carers need their financial security protected.
One parent’s reality behind Autism Awareness Day
Freda McEwen juggles being a carer for 20-year-old son Tony Abara, who has autism, with a self-employed role for Greenwich social services.
Before taking redundancy in 2012 she earned around £24,000 a year in a part-time intelligence role with the Metropolitan Police. Now she’s on less than £10,000 a year.
Single-parent McEwen, 51, from Thamesmead, London, worries over how her caring role will impact her pension.
She said: “I’ve worked part-time all through because of my son and it will have a huge impact.”
The Department for Work and Pensions said a decision will be made on Cridland’s recommendations in May.