To coincide with International Women's Day, RISE - Scotland's Left Alliance has today published a new policy briefing making the case for a living income for Scotland's unpaid carers.

Scotland's unpaid carers - the vast majority of whom are women - are an indispensable part of Scottish society and should receive significantly more support than they do at present.

The briefing document outlines a number of proposals that would radically improve the lives of unpaid Scottish carers, including:

  • The creation of a Living Income for unpaid carers, set at £200 per week for all those caring for 35 hours a week or more. 
  • The provision of this income to unpaid carers regardless of whether or not they have any other earnings. 
  • The provision, guaranteed in law, of free annual health checks to all registered unpaid carers.
  • The introduction of a mandatory right to paid care leave of 10 days enforceable on all employers

Accompanying the briefing document is a video - which will be released online later today - featuring Deborah Waters, a RISE candidate on the Glasgow regional list and long-term unpaid carer.

It is estimated that unpaid carers save the public purse up to £10.5bn every year.

Due to the stress of their work, large numbers of carers experience mental and physical health challenges at some point in their lives.

Following the agreement of the fiscal framework last month, Holyrood is now set to gain new powers over welfare and carer support.

Commenting, Deborah Waters said:

"Carers are so essential to Scotland's economy.

"It's a scandal in modern Scotland that carers' allowance is the lowest benefit in the UK at just £62.10 per week. 

"Carers often ignore their own health problems to care for someone they love. 

"Unfortunately the UK government ruthlessly exploits this love. 

"The Scottish Government now has an opportunity to radically improve the lives of unpaid carers throughout the country."

Sandra Webster, RISE West of Scotland candidate said:

"The reason I am involved in politics is because I am an unpaid carer.

"It has become a yearly statement from many of us that we can't go on.

"The harsh reality though is that many more of us are reaching breaking point with our own health breaking down.

"The cuts by national and local government mean that services used by those we care for are being decimated.

"Respite is essential as is recognition that unpaid carers work we contribute over 12 billion in care to the Scottish economy.

"At what cost to us though?

"Our role should be appreciated so we can feel more human again. Caring is not just women's work it is at the heart of what makes us a decent society."

Cat Boyd - RISE's top candidate on the Glasgow regional list, added: 

"Upping the rate of Carer's Allowance to the same as Jobseeker's Allowance simply isn't good enough - as anyone in receipt of benefits will tell you.

"It's just enough not to save, but not enough to live on. 

"The bottom line here is that care work is work.

"The work that carers do is equal to any other work, and at the very least, it should be paid as such."