The government has confirmed in the House of Lords that eligibility for Carer’s Allowance, the main carer’s benefit, would not be tightened with the introduction of the new disability benefit, the Personal Independence Payment (PIP).
In a response to a direct question from Baroness Hollis, Lord Freud, Minister of State for Work and Pensions, stated that both rates of the daily living component of the new Personal Independence Payment would be used as a criterion to determine the entitlement to Carer’s Allowance.
The clarification from the Minister came after Peers from all sides of the House raised their concerns that the Welfare Reform Bill left the future of Carer’s Allowance unclear.
The Welfare Reform Bill will replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) with a new benefit, the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). Several elements of the benefit will change and the number of care components will fall from three in DLA to two ‘daily living’ components in PIP.
Entitlement to Carer’s Allowance is currently established through a disabled person getting the middle or higher rate care component of DLA. Only counting the higher level of care components in the new disability benefit would have squeezed out many carers.
Although it is worth only £55.55 per week and is the lowest benefit of its kind, Carer’s Allowance is vital income for around 550,000 people in the UK who care, unpaid, for family or close friends and who cannot work full time.
Helen Ferguson, Director of Carers Northern Ireland said, “We are pleased that Government has provided this clarification to carers worried about losing their entitlement to Carer’s Allowance when the new Personal Independence Payment is introduced. Our advice line has been inundated with calls from families worried about how they will be affected and we have been unable to provide them with a clear response. Although there are still many elements to be decided about disability benefits, including how the £2 billion worth of cuts will impact on disabled people and their families, this is a vital decision for carers announced today.
She added, “The support provided by family and friends, unpaid to disabled, ill and elderly relatives is vital. In Northern Ireland alone is worth a staggering £4.4 billion to the state – almost as much again as government spending on health and social care. Without their unpaid work, our community care system would collapse.”