DWP slammed as thousands of unpaid carers pushed into debt: 'Inexcusable!'

DWP slammed as thousands of unpaid carers pushed into debt: 'Inexcusable!'
Ministers seek to overhaul disability benefits system
GB NEWS
Patrick O'Donnell

By Patrick O'Donnell


Published: 10/05/2024

- 09:43

Updated: 10/05/2024

- 10:13

Carer’s Allowance is reserved for Britons who look after loved ones for 35 hours a week

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is under fire as thousands of unpaid carers face being pushed into debt and criminal prosecution,

Carer’s Allowance claimants are finding their cases being left unchecked on a Government “alert” database of individuals being overpaid benefits.


Charities are urging the DWP to take action as carers risk accumulating overpayments which could lead to vulnerable households being pulled into debt.

Over the past five years, nearly half of all overpayment cases have not been investigated by the Government.

New statistics have revealed that of 67,000 alerts flagged as being potential Carer’s Allowance earnings rules breaches nearly half were not investigated by the DWP.

This represents around 50 per cent of alerts not being looked into staff which may result in overpayment raking up for many households.

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Woman looking stressed and DWP sign

Unpaid carers risk falling foul of the weekly earnings threshold

GETTY

Someone is eligible for Carer’s Allowance, which comes to £81.90 a week, if they look after someone for at least 35 hours a week.

However, if they earn more than £151 weekly in a paid job, they exceed the DWP-imposed benefits cap.

When this threshold is crossed, the entirety of their Carer’s Allowance entitlement is deemed an overpayment.

Claimants will be forced to repay the DWP and could be taken to court as a result.

Over 150,000 unpaid carers are paying back overpayments and risk criminal prosecution, according to official figures.

Out of this group, 11,600 carers are paying back sums of more than £5,000 with around one in five claimants in part-time employment falling foul of the weekly earnings limit in 2023.

According to the DWP, it is the responsibility of carers to ensure they do not breach this amount but carer organisations believe people should be notified by the Government as early as possible.

Emily Holzhausen, the director of policy at the charity Carers UK, emphasised the impact it has on vulnerable carers.

She explained: “There’s a clear lack of resource, investment and political will to tackle the issue of Carer’s Allowance overpayments, which is continuing to cause carers huge levels of distress when they unwittingly go over the earnings limit.”

Dominic Carter, the director of policy and public affairs at the Carers Trust, added: “Honest mistakes by unpaid carers are spiralling out of control because the DWP hasn’t provided enough staff to deal with the issue.

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Unpaid carer with their elderly motherPeople who care for their loved ones for at least 35 hours a week may be eligible to claim Carer's Allowance GETTY

This is inexcusable.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “We ensure all our teams are resourced to deliver key services and support the most vulnerable in our society.

“We have simplified processes and improved communications to help protect claimants from accruing debt or being incorrectly paid and we remind claimants of their responsibility to inform us of any changes in their circumstances.

“DWP recognises the importance of the welfare of those who have incurred debt and remains committed to supporting customers to manage repayments to ensure fairness for both claimants and taxpayers.”

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