CARING for a sick or disabled loved one is one of the hardest jobs that might befall any of us.

As the population lives longer it is likely to be a challenge that more and more of us will face as cases of cancer, dementia and age-related degenerative conditions rise.

Unless there is a major (and much-needed) overhaul in how we fund the social care system, it will be left to spouses, children and parents to fill in the gaps.

So it was interesting to discover just how differently New Zealand is approaching the issue of supporting carers financially compared to the paltry provision in place in the UK.

Under legislation due to come into force from 2020, spouses will be entitled to payments of $20.50 to $25.50NZ an hour (approximately £11-14/hour) to look after an ill or disabled partner, up to a maximum of 40 hours a week.

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To put it into context, the UK carer's allowance pays out just £66.15 per week and only then if someone is spending at least 35 hours a week on caring duties and the person cared for is in receipt of certain welfare benefits, such as disability living allowance.

In Scotland, a carer's allowance supplement tops that up by £226.20 every six months - an extra £8.70 per week.

On that basis, while a full-time carer in New Zealand could soon be compensated up to £560 a week, the best their counterpart in Scotland could hope for is £74.85.

The changes in New Zealand come after a long campaign to address anomalies in its Family Funded Care policy, introduced in 2013, which had excluded spouses or partners from claiming the payments.

Coverage is also being extended to parents with children under 18.

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The pay rate is equal to that of community-based and care home staff employed in New Zealand's public sector and, somewhat controversially, follows a model whereby the carer is 'employed' by the cared-for person.

Nonetheless, it is surely more compassionate than the scenario facing carers in the UK, even with Scotland's more generous free personal care provision.

Of course, none of this comes for free and it would be up to taxpayers here to vote for something similar.

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Good social care is expensive but the consequences of under-funding it are catastrophic, both in terms of the emotional toll on families and systematically on the health service forced to pick up the pieces.

Not all parents or spouses might feel able to take on the burden of caring full-time. Professional or residential alternatives must be available too.

But many would surely appreciate being fairly paid to look after their loved one than entrust that care to the state.