Carers are terrified by prospect of EU withdrawal

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Lynn Williams believes carers risk further cuts to benefits and services as a result of the decision to leave the EU

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30th June 2016 by TFN Guest 0 Comments

It's almost a week since the UK voted to leave the EU and unpaid carers have already been vocal in sharing their concerns about what Brexit might mean for our families.

Of course, not all carers voted to remain. For those who did, our hopes are summed up nicely by a carer friend tweeting in response to last Sunday's Marr Show. She said "We voted with a bigger picture in mind, where the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few."  

This might seem a bit gallant, but carers remain acutely aware of the ways in which government policy can affect other families, wherever they live in the UK. We voted to remain with our eyes wide open about the flaws in the EU project. However, we believed that the EU offered our families important protections and we wanted to ensure that we were not isolated in an increasingly global economy. We still do.

Lynn Williams

Lynn Williams

The knock on effect of another austerity budget will fall on the public services which matter most to us and on community projects which provide advocacy and support to our families

In voting to remain, we voted for a society which views our loved ones as equal citizens who contribute in many significant ways. We voted for a society which welcomes our fellow global citizens seeking to escape war and abject poverty. Our fear now is that the Brexit vote has made this vision seem less real, that it is somehow more acceptable to openly blame those around us for a faltering economy, rather than those groups who led us into this quagmire in the first place. 

More immediately, we worry about the UK Chancellor's warnings about further cuts. Carers have already borne the brunt of austerity-driven policy and there is clearly more to come. We are worried about the emergence of stricter benefits conditionality we have no hope of meeting, combined with the policy focus on work at any cost, we can expect devastating financial and social impact. 

Proclamations from Conservative leadership candidates have given rise to tangible concerns about UK withdrawal from EU rights conventions. These rights provide a last layer of protection from deeply damaging benefits policy and service cuts. The continued narrative which singles out disabled people and their families as scroungers will mean that continued membership of these conventions is a no-brainer.

More widely, we have to consider how EU withdrawal will affect the services which interact with our families' lives, such as tele-health and tele-care developments, which are supported by significant EU funding. This could have a knock on impact for NHS and council services. Funding for disability sports may also be affected, as highlighted by Professor Grant Jarvie on Radio Scotland this week.

The knock on effect of another austerity budget will fall on the public services which matter most to us and on community projects which provide advocacy and support to our families. Economic uncertainty leading to potential tax rises, depressed wages and squeezed pension pots will leave families with caring responsibilities less able to access the goods which prevent them from turning to the state for crisis support. Carers have also astutely pointed out that if further cuts emerge, there may be very little left to devolve once social security powers are transferred to Scotland. 

A carer friend said that the thought of Brexit is terrifying. How we allay such fears is a conundrum with no immediate solution, particularly for carer friends in other parts of the UK. Here in Scotland, it is vital that the Scottish Government response to Brexit and its newly announced Advisory Group uses our lived experience to help inform it.