Work and Pensions Secretary urged to make financial support fairer for unpaid carers
Carers UK hand-delivered a letter on the 10th January 2019, signed by more than 8,200 people, to the Work and Pensions Secretary, Rt Hon Amber Rudd MP, calling for fairer financial support for unpaid carers across the UK.
Unpaid carers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland receiving Carer’s Allowance – the main benefit for people caring more than 35 hours a week for family or friends – receive £64.60 per week to support their living costs, the lowest benefit of its kind.
In Scotland, however, Carer’s Allowance has been increased to the same level as Jobseeker’s Allowance, up by £8.50 per week, bringing the total to £73.10 a week.
The change means that carers living in the UK are receiving different levels of financial support depending on where they live, with their finances tied to a postcode lottery.
It also means more than 750,000 unpaid carers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are £442 a year worse off compared with carers in Scotland.
Carers UK has been campaigning for better financial support for unpaid carers through its Fairer for Carers campaign. The charity wants to see the increase implemented in the rest of the nations, bringing Carer’s Allowance to the level of Jobseeker’s Allowance throughout the UK, with associated increases to the Carer Premium, Addition and Element in means-tested benefits, so that all carers in the UK see an increase in the financial support they receive.
Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said: “Carer’s Allowance is the lowest benefit of its kind and many unpaid carers who rely on this support face a never-ending struggle to make ends meet.
“We know that 1.2 million carers are living in poverty, with many having to cut back on small things that allow them a life outside of their caring responsibilities – and even forgoing essentials such as food and heating.
“The increase for carers in Scotland is welcome. Now, it’s time the Government made it fairer for carers and raise Carer’s Allowance in the rest of the UK – recognising carers’ enormous contribution to the economy, worth over £132 billion every year. The Government’s Green Paper on Social Care must have families at its heart – including better financial support for those caring unpaid for loved ones.”
Carers UK Chief Executive, Helen Walker, and carers from England, Wales and Northern Ireland in receipt of Carer’s Allowance made the trip to the Department for Work and Pensions to hand in the letter.
Joanna, a carer in Northern Ireland receiving Carer’s Allowance, said: “For me, Carer’s Allowance is some recognition of what I have given up and what I save the Government to look after my disabled daughter. Her disability means that it was extremely difficult for me to go back to work in the NI Civil Service.
“Carer’s Allowance in Scotland is going up by £8.50 per week to the same level as Jobseeker’s Allowance. I don’t see why carers shouldn’t be receiving the same rate of benefit as someone looking for work. We have a demanding occupation! Carer’s Allowance in England, Wales and Northern Ireland should be raised by at least £8.50 to match these changes being made in Scotland. It doesn’t matter where you live – we’re doing the same job!”
The Carer Premium is £36.00 a week paid on top of other benefits a carer might be claiming, including Income Support (IS), Income-based Job Seekers Allowance (JSA), Income-related Employment & Support Allowance (ESA) or Housing Benefit.
It’s known as Carer Addition when it’s paid with Pension Credit. Where a carer’s State Pension is less than £64.60 a week, they can claim Carer’s Allowance to top it up to that level.
If a carer receives Universal Credit, they may be able to get an extra amount because of their caring role called the Carer Element, which is worth £156.45 a month (about £36 a week).