Carer allowances – the cases hitting the headlines

Written by Ranger Home Care
9 July 2024

When caring for a loved one, daily life can be difficult. The stresses that come with supporting a vulnerable person can be significant and varied. From physical help with personal hygiene and mobility, to more emotional support, it can take a toll on a carer’s well-being. This is why the last thing a carer needs is to worry about finances.

A recent report has shed a light on the huge amounts that unpaid carers are being forced to repay. Many, through no fault of their own, are being told they owe significant amounts to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer is openly vocal against this and has called it ‘very wrong’.

Let’s have a look at this issue in more detail.

Carer’s allowance

When a person starts caring for a loved one, they are entitled to apply for financial help, such as carer’s allowance. Currently £67.60 a week, unpaid carers can get this amount without having to be means tested. However, there is a cap on how much you can earn working and still get carer’s allowance. So, if you earn more than £120 a week (after tax), you might not be eligible.

This can lead to unpaid carers accumulating debt. A recent study by Carers UK found that 75% of unpaid carers receiving Carer’s allowance are struggling with cost-of-living pressures and 1 in 6 of them are in debt.

Even those who get the allowance still find themselves in a concerning financial situation. The fact that this problem is so prevalent highlights the pressure on the government to review their policies and change the current law. This is made even more urgent when we hear people’s experiences and struggles.

Case study – George Henderson

George Henderson, a 64-year-old carer, faced severe consequences after mistakenly claiming carer’s allowance while he was employed. He cares for his son John, who has significant health and addiction problems. When filling out the paperwork on John’s needs, George accidentally ticked the wrong employment box.

Because of this, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) later demanded that he repay £19,506.20. George was prosecuted for fraud, even though the DWP acknowledged it as an innocent mistake.  

The whole ordeal meant George had to sell his house and became homeless. He suffers from huge emotional and physical health problems, and he is fighting to clear his name.

Case Study – Vivienne Groom

Fifty-nine year old carer, Vivienne Groom, worked for a low-wage at a local Co-op while also receiving £60 a week carer’s allowance for looking after her mother. Despite Vivienne insisting it was an innocent mistake, she lost her £16,105 inheritance to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) under the Proceeds of Crime Act.  

She wasn’t offered any legal aid, and her bank account was frozen, ignoring her difficult financial circumstances. The experience left her devastated, her husband describing it as a “nightmare”.

What did Starmer say on the issue?

Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour Party, has spoken out against this treatment of unpaid carers. He believes the government are unfairly penalising carers when they are providing essential support for their loved ones.

Starmer highlighted the need for unpaid carers to be recognised and supported, instead of being prosecuted. He agreed with Liberal Democrat leader Ed Davey, who called for ministers to “stop treating carers like criminals”, promising to address the issue if elected, advocating to protect carers from unfair financial hardship.

Making necessary changes

Starmer’s call for action includes reviewing and changing current policies to ensure carers are treated fairly and with compassion. These changes should include:

  • Revised guidelines: Clearer guidelines should be introduced to help carers understand what rules they are expected to follow, preventing honest mistakes from happening.
  • Support networks: Having a support network that can offer legal advice to carers can stop unintentional mistakes leading to prosecution.
  • An appeals process: It’s essential that carers have the option to appeal if they feel they need to challenge unfair repayments.

What are the benefits of reform?

If these financial care policies are reformed, they can bring significant benefits to the 19 million people in the UK who provide care to loved ones. These benefits can include:

Financial security

Carers are entitled to be more financially stable. Having financial security means they won’t live in constant fear of unexpected repayment demands. This means fewer sleepless nights worrying about surprise bills and more peace of mind to focus on their carer duties.

Better health

By reducing stress, carers can focus on providing quality care, which will improve the wellbeing of both themselves and those they care for. Being less anxious will give a better quality of life and provide a more fulfilling experience.

More trust in the system

If carers are seen to be given fairer treatment, the government will gain more trust from the public. Carers will be reassured that they can get eligible benefits without fear of repayment. It makes sense because when carers feel supported, they have the confidence in reaching out for help when they need it.

Supportive care in your own home

Are you seeking compassionate care that feels like home? Ranger Home Care offers live-in services tailored to your needs, ensuring that you or your loved ones receive high-quality, personalised support in the comfort of your own home.

We provide live-in carers 24/7, to help people stay safe and healthy in their own homes. Our comprehensive assessment ensures that all health needs – physical, cognitive, emotional and social – are understood and developed into an effective and personalised care plan. Have a look at what some of our clients say about us.

If you’d like to speak to a Ranger Home Care about the benefits of live-in care call us directly on 01252 850 040 or email natalie@rangerhomecare.com.

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