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Rising expenses and a lack of resources and support are among the concerning findings of a survey on the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on caregivers conducted by RANQ, Regroupement des aidants naturels du Québec. And this worries Réseau FADOQ.
According to the RANQ data, 20% of caregivers saw their caregiving expenses increase an average of nearly $900. That finding puts a figure on a hard reality: taking on a caregiver role involves a considerable loss of income.
To provide some financial relief to these people who are stepping up and stepping in on a daily basis to make up for the lack of resources from the public system, Réseau FADOQ has repeatedly asked the federal government to change the caregiver tax credit. Currently, the credit is nonrefundable and doesn’t protect the most vulnerable members of society. It should be made refundable to provide better financial support for caregivers.
The RANQ survey also shows that 31% of respondents who were working before the pandemic did not have a job during lockdown, and in early July they still had not gone back to work out of fear of infecting their family members. These findings ought to alert the different levels of government to the need to protect caregivers’ employment relationships and create additional measures to support work/life/caregiving balance.
At the federal level, Réseau FADOQ is demanding an extension of employment insurance benefits to up to 52 weeks to protect caregivers’ jobs. The benefit currently expires after 15 weeks for caregivers of adults, 26 weeks for those receiving compassionate care benefits, and 36 weeks for caregivers of children. We must let people invest in their loved ones for a full year by giving them the support they need to survive.
At the provincial level, Réseau FADOQ is again stressing the importance of better supporting caregivers, asking the Quebec government to establish a caregiver insurance plan that follows the same model as the Quebec Parental Insurance Program (QPIP). Caregivers must be able to focus on their responsibilities without ending up in financial or professional trouble.
The RANQ survey also noted that during lockdown, 28% of caregivers were unable to receive support services.
Home care and services must be developed faster and more respite services are needed. And right now Réseau FADOQ is recommending that the Quebec government raise the tax credit refund for caregiver respite to 40% of expenses incurred for the year. That would help lighten the considerable load of expenses borne by caregivers.