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Today, the Department for Work and Pensions has published its research on the Experiences of Claiming and receiving Carer’s Allowance, which was completed in 2021. The Work and Pensions Select Committee also published its letter to the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Mel Stride MP, which included a number of recommendations for the Department on the back of two evidence sessions on Carer’s Allowance held on 6 March and 24 April 2024. 

Helen Walker, Chief Executive at Carers UK said: 

“We are really pleased to see the Department of Work and Pensions’ research on Carer’s Allowance finally in the public domain so we can begin to have constructive discussions with decision-makers and officials about the future of Carer’s Allowance. However, it has taken three years for this research to be published and during this time the benefit has remained unchanged, despite many calls from Carers UK and other stakeholders on the need for a substantial review. 

“Carer’s Allowance is the lowest benefit of its kind at just £81.90 per week, this is clearly evidenced in the research, which highlights that the majority of claimants live in low-income households. The lower level of qualifications of the claimants further highlights the need to change the eligibility criteria for Carer’s Allowance to enable unpaid carers to gain qualifications whilst providing vital care, which could build their confidence and prepare them for paid work if their caring role comes to an end. 

“Coming on the same day, the letter from the Work and Pensions Select Committee to the Secretary of State makes clear that significant changes are required to the design of Carer’s Allowance to ensure it works well at supporting unpaid carers in a variety of situations. 

“We are delighted that the Committee has made repeated recommendations on benchmarking the level of Carer’s Allowance against living costs to ensure unpaid carers do not experience financial hardship, pegging the earnings limit to National Living Wage increases, introducing a taper rate for earnings, and improving communication with claimants at risk of overpayments. 

“All of these recommendations by the Committee taken together could help to reduce the size and volume of overpayments experienced by unpaid carers as well as improving the financial security and removing barriers to staying in paid work for unpaid carers.                                                                                        

“The Select Committee has asked for a Ministerial response by 17 June 2024. We hope that the Government will take this opportunity to consider the recommendations and make the changes we so desperately need. 

“Carers UK has continued to campaign on this issue bringing carers voices and experiences to decision makers.” 

This research was originally recommended five years ago when the Work and Pensions Select Committee first looked at the scandal of overpayments on Carer’s Allowance.  If you go even £1 over the earnings limit of £151 per week, you stand to lose 100% of your Carer’s Allowance – £81.90 per week. This cliff edge, and the complexity of the benefit rules, mean that carers can unwittingly go over the limit and quickly build up debts that must be repaid to the Department for Work and Pensions. 

Five years ago, the Select Committee and the National Audit Office found that the Department didn’t have any research knowledge about how Carer’s Allowance claimants were affected,  who was juggling work and care and broader characteristics of Carer’s Allowance claimants.  The Government responded to the Select Committee by saying that it would carry out research.  Although delivered in 2021, it did not publish the work despite repeated calls by Carers UK and the Select Committee to do so. 

Measures put in place nearly five years ago to tackle overpayments have not delivered any material change to the number of carers experiencing overpayments.  The HMRC sends regular alerts to the DWP about carers who have earnings over the threshold, but they are not always acted on swiftly enough, leaving carers to clock up overpayments.  As a result, there were 34,500 in the last year alone, or one in five unpaid carers with earnings.   



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