Childcare and social care professionals are paid to provide crucial support to people caring for children, disabled, ill and older people. Care is both essential to society and extremely demanding work. However, at present, caring is chronically undervalued by our society and economic systems. Unpaid care work is estimated at a value of £10.8 billion (1) to Scotland’s economy, yet Carer’s Allowance is the lowest of all income-replacement benefits, and if a parent chooses to provide childcare directly we do not currently judge this economic contribution to be worthy of a wage.
This means that carers often have limited or no access to an independent income, with huge implications for women’s economic inequality and child poverty. This can make one partner financially dependent on the other, increasing the risk of financial abuse, as well as having huge impacts on the personal freedom, opportunities, health and wellbeing of the dependent partner. Although this can affect all genders, it has an overwhelmingly disproportionate impact on women, as women undertake the vast majority of unpaid care. In turn, this undermines gender equality in Scotland.
A basic income would immediately give all carers their own source of income to spend at their discretion, as well as acknowledging the value of the otherwise unpaid work carried out in the home or elsewhere. It would enable many women to leave abusive relationships and seek safety. Without reform we are tacitly condoning a society in Scotland in which not every citizen has an equal level of freedom and opportunity, and this cannot continue to be the case.