Woman, 62, loses 20 years worth of pension contributions by caring for her son

Jenny Whinnett left her job in management so she could focus her attention on caring for her son.

Craig had profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD) and needed constant care.

Not only did she deal with the emotional struggles of full-time care, but she was also dealt a financial blow as she lost out on years of employment.

Carers Scotland told the BBC that many other carers like Jenny are left in poverty in old age because they do not have access to a workplace pension. The charity is calling for full-time carers to get greater support.

They argue carers should get the equivalent of an occupational pension to avoid them facing poverty at retirement age.

The 62-year-old said her entire financial support network was taken away almost overnight when she lost her son.

“You’re left there to pick up the pieces,” she said.

She explained she lost 20 years of workplace pension contributions in order to look after Craig, creating significant hardship in her retirement years and making her feel “penalised for caring”.‌

She added: “We need to think that come the day we are pensionable age, that we’re not going to be living in poverty.”‌

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Carers are one of the vulnerable groups who are feeling a squeeze on their finances as they also have to consider the costs of caring.

The average unpaid carer is missing out on the equivalent of £2,494 a year due to the costs of caring – even with the additional benefit of receiving Carer’s Allowance, according to Lottie’s new research.

This includes expenses like travel, household bills, and any equipment needed, which can quickly add up and take its toll, both financially and emotionally.‌‌

In 2021, there were almost 1.2 million unpaid carers aged 65 years and over in England and Wales, (just over one in 10 of the older population) with almost half of these providing more than 50 hours of unpaid care a week.‌

Unpaid carers also provide £193billion of the UK’s social care system each year and are a fundamental part of the UK’s healthcare system.

Carers Allowance currently stands at £76.75 a week however to be eligible, people can’t be in full-time education, they can only earn up to about £130 a week after deductions, and if they have any overlapping benefit like a retirement pension then they’re not eligible at all.‌

Carers allowance is currently being devolved to the Scottish government.

‌For more information, people can visit the Government website.

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