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Support for Carers UK's Carer's Allowance overpayments campaign

Carers UK overwhelmed by support from senior politicians encourages carers to share their experience of Carer’s Allowance overpayments as Government is urged to act quickly

Carers UK is urging the Government to act swiftly to make critical changes to Carer’s Allowance and its systems to protect carers from overpayments.

Emily Holzhausen OBE, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at Carers UK said, “We’ve been overwhelmed with the level of support from senior politicians from all political parties, including former Ministers following coverage by the Guardian.

“This has been going on for years and nothing has been done by Government to fundamentally change the situation, despite a National Audit Office report and a Select Committee Inquiry on overpayments and Carers UK raising it consistently.”

Carers UK is building a dossier of carers’ experiences which will be anonymised, to share with the Government and senior parliamentarians to demonstrate the personal cost to many families and individuals who are providing care to older, ill and disabled relatives.

Carer’s Allowance is worth only £81.90 per week and has an earnings threshold of £151 per week after certain allowable deductions. If the carer earns even £1 over this limit, they lose 100% of their benefit which they can ill-afford. Many have to make the difficult choice between working and receiving the benefit.   

Emily Holzhausen continued, “Carers often say they have made the mistake unwittingly; they don’t realise a small pay rise has taken them over the limit, a bonus at Christmas time, or they are paid irregularly and it’s hard to work out.”

The Department for Work and Pensions receives regular alerts telling them who is over the earnings limit, but don’t act quickly enough to tell carers so that they can take action to stop the overpayments from building up. A staggering 26,000 carers have an overpayment in 2022/23 as a result of earnings, some running into tens of thousands of pounds. For carers on a low income, it will take years, and some even decades, to pay off. 175,000 carers currently have earnings and receive Carer’s Allowance.

Emily Holzhausen OBE told BBC MoneyBox that, “The situation has been made even worse over the past 5 years because the earnings limit for Carer’s Allowance has not risen in line with increases in the National Living Wage. Our analysis shows that in 2019, a carer could work around 15 hours per week at the NLW wage rates and still keep their Carer’s Allowance. In April 2024, this dropped to only 13 hours per week – a loss of 13 days paid work across the year. Carers who need to keep within the earnings limit will have to cut their hours further and, for some, this means giving up work altogether. Others may not realise that the rise in the NLW could take them over the earnings limit, risk an overpayment and lose their benefit.”

Emily Holzhausen OBE added, “There’s not a moment to lose for reform, carers have been waiting far too long for this. Their support for older, disabled and ill relatives and friends is worth billions every year. They need and deserve better.”

Carers UK is urging the Government to invest more in Carer’s Allowance systems and processing to alleviate acute distress and financial hardship that this issue causes, as well as positively reforming the level and eligibility of Carer’s Allowance.

Carers UK has also lodged a parliamentary petition and are waiting for this to be approved.

Posted: 17th April 2024