Islington home carers’ financial support ring fenced in council pledge

Jean Willson

Jean Willson - Credit: Archant

A leading care figure has hailed Islington Council’s decision to ring fence money available to home carers for assisting disabled loved ones.

Jean Willson OBE, who was recently given the Freedom of the Borough, claims Islington’s estimated 16,000 carers save local taxpayers about £15 million a year.

In recognition of their huge humanitarian effort, Cllr Janet Burgess, Islington Council’s executive member for health and well-being, this week pledged to ring fence money for carers until at least 2015/16.

Carers, of which there are more than 15,000 according to the 2011 Census, can currently claim up to £30-a-week depending on how severely disabled their loved one is.

However, only about 1,000 claim, according to Cllr Burgess, who is pushing a drive to reach more.

She said: “When you think about it, 1,000 isn’t a lot compared to the total number of carers that we know exist across the borough.

“We want to reach more and that is why we’re not going to reduce the money available to them. They do a terrific job and save our local economy millions.

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“It is some of the most important work in our society and the borough would grind to a halt, as well as a lot of disadvantaged people be left without loving support, without them.”

News of the ring fence comes two weeks after the Gazette revealed Islington Council’s spend on charities has been slashed by nearly £7 million over the last three years.

A total of £32,075,866 was spent on charities last year (2012/13) compared to £38,921,402 in 2010/11, hitting domestic violence, elderly and disabled charities.

Mrs Willson, 71, hailed the decision to ring fence home carers’ cash at a time when budgets are pressed.

The veteran carer’s own 43-year-old daughter, Victoria, is a full-time wheelchair user and has disabilities so severe she can only communicate through her eyes and eyebrows and making sounds sue to epilepsy and a kidney failure.

Mrs Willson said: “We are absolutely delighted that Islington has truly valued the input that family carers have in supporting our loved ones and children with disabilities because most of us who look after people. It’s not just a job for two or three years, it’s a job for life. I will only get off when I die.

“It can be like bereavement and loss being a full-time carer. It’s a daily struggle at times. Most of the time you can keep it under control, but at other times, like birthdays, christmases and events like that, that’s when it can erupt.

“The council still offering the same money may only seem a small thing, but it’s a huge sign of support. Not every borough is doing it.”

Mrs Willson is chairwoman of the Holloway disabled organisation Centre 404 and lobbied the council at a recent Town Hall speech not to cut its funding in 2015 as charities feel the squeeze from further council savings. The pensioner picked up her OBE from the Queen in 2011 for national services to the care sector.

Centre 404 supports about 1,000 people across the borough. Mrs Willson claims there are at least 265 adults borough-wide with needs which would cost more than £50,000 – nearly £15 million a year.

To claim up to £30-a-week, carers must be providing a “substantial” amount of care to loved ones.

To find out what you might be entitle to, visit