As the Government prepares to publish its Welfare Reform Bill, setting out plans for a new Universal Credit, Carers UK has urged the Government not to means-test Carer's Allowance which is currently received by 245,000 carers (a further 250,000 receive the carer premium to means-tested benefit).
Proposals set out in a Government White Paper leave open the possibility that Carer's Allowance may be included in the new Universal Credit, which is set to replace most working-age benefits (like Jobseeker's Allowance and Income Support).
In response, Imelda Redmond CBE, Chief Executive of Carers UK said:
"Our message to the Government has always been absolutely clear - it is essential that Carer's Allowance does not become means-tested and must not be included in the Universal Credit.
Carers UK was set up in the 1960s to fight for rights for people who cared for ill or disabled loved ones. Carers fought hard to win the right to an independent income in the form of Carer's Allowance. This must not be lost.
Means-testing Carer's Allowance would set back carers rights by decades. Hundreds of thousands of carers in the future, the majority of whom have always been women, would not longer be entitled to this vital benefit. If these carers lost the right to Carer's Allowance through a means-test, they would be left with no recognition of the huge contribution they are making to society, no income of their own, and financially dependent on their partners or family members.
We have argued for an end to the unfair 'cliff edge' rule which cuts off Carer's Allowance as soon as carers earn any more than £100 a week – but absolutely not at the expense of means-testing Carer's Allowance by including it in Universal Credit. This would be too high a price to pay for the small number of carers who would benefit from the earnings taper.
We could never support the means-testing of Carer's Allowance in any form, and urge the Government in the strongest terms to keep Carer's Allowance outside Universal Credit."
1) Carer's Allowance is a non means-tested benefit for carers who provide a minimum of 35 hours a week of more care for an ill, frail or disabled friends or relative who are in receipt of the middle or higher rate care component of Disability Living Allowance or Attendance Allowance. A 'cliff-edge' earnings limit for Carer's Allowance means that if carers earn than £100 a week they lose the entire benefit.
2) Under plans set out in the Government's White Paper Universal Credit: welfare that works:
· Approximately 250,000 carers currently in receipt of the carer premium to means-tested benefits (like Income Support and Jobseeker's Allowance) will be moved onto the Universal Credit. Carers UK would not oppose this, as these carers are already means-tested and could be better off if they are able to juggle work and care, as they should be able to keep more of their benefit as they earn.
· The remaining 245,000 carers on non means-tested Carer's Allowance would remain outside the Universal Credit. The White Paper states that the Government is still considering what measures to take for these carers in light of introduction of the Universal Credit – Carers UK argues that this must not involve inclusion in Universal Credit.
3) The Government has pledged that 'no-one will experience a reduction in the benefit they are receiving as a result of the introduction of Universal Credit. At the point of transition onto the new system, those households whose circumstances remain unchanged and who would otherwise experience a reduction in income will receive cash protection'. This indicates that carers already in receipt would not lose their Carer's Allowance, but that future claimants in similar circumstances may not have rights to Carer's Allowance as a result of the means-test.