North Ayrshire’s unpaid carers are “exhausted with stress” as they try to make ends meet amidst the rising cost of living.

As energy bills rise and inflation is predicted to increase to 13.1%, many local carers are finding that they cannot afford to keep running life sustaining medial equipment or keep their gas and electricity on.

Currently the Carers Allowance requires carers to prove they provide care for at least 35 hours per week, the equivalent of a full-time job. 

The benefit pays £69.70 per week or £1.99 an hour.

A carer from Irvine, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “People in the carers' group I’m in are exhausted and wish they could strike because they feel so undervalued.

“If people get that exhausted with stress because of bills and can't care for their loved ones, it will cripple the care system. How is anyone meant to live their life on just over £60 a week?

“No one else would work for that in any walk of life but because they know we will do it since we love the person we care for.

“You just feel like no one cares to help and it gets you really down.”

With the Scottish Government taking control of the Carers Allowance, changing it to Scottish Carer's Assistance with plans to offer a supplement to those caring for multiple people, there are hopes that more changes could be made.

Scotland does differ to the rest of the UK, as those eligible for Carers Allowance will receive two bi-yearly payments of £245.70 on top of their weekly allowance, but with the rapidly increasing cost of living people are saying this isn’t enough.

North Ayrshire Council’s carers champion and Labour councillor Nairn McDonald said: “I would argue that about zero carers are sitting going ‘OK, I’ve got that £245.70 from December, that’s to do me until June, so I’ll split it every week and add a little bit to my carers allowance’ - it just doesn’t work like that.

“The vast majority of carers have additional work on the side because they simply can’t afford not to.

“I know loads of unpaid carers who have started using food larders or are cutting back on essentials just to try and make ends meet and keep their heads above water.

“Now that the Scottish Government’s taken over carers allowance there’s an opportunity for it to do something different and to expand the eligibility criteria, but also just to raise the actual amount of money.”

In North Ayrshire, there is support available for unpaid carers at the Irvine based North Ayrshire Carers Centre which is run by Unity Enterprise.

The hub provides support to carers by allowing them to talk to social workers or one of their team members, as well as offering respite breaks.

For more information about their work and how they help unpaid carers visit Unity Enterprise's website.

In response to councillor McDonald's comments, a Scottish Government spokesperson said: "The Scottish Government is very concerned about the hardship households are facing in this cost crisis, and doing all that we can to help within our limited powers and finite budget. The Carer’s Allowance Supplement has been delivered annually since 2018 and is only available in Scotland. This year eligible carers here will receive up to £491.40 on top of Carer’s Allowance. Since the launch of Carer’s Allowance Supplement in 2018, over 744,000 Carer’s Allowance Supplement payments totalling £210 million have been made to over 133,000 carers.

"We will invest £4.2 billion in benefits expenditure in 2022-23, providing support to over one million people in Scotland who need it most - over £460 million above the level of funding forecast to be received from the UK Government through Block Grant Adjustments. Further increases would have to come out of our overall fixed budget.

"We will introduce Scottish Carer’s Assistance, our replacement for Carer’s Allowance by spring 2024 and have proposed changes that include additional money for people who care for more than one disabled person."