Carers UK – Benefit confusion penalises working carers

Carers UK is urging Government to act on illogical, overlapping regulations on benefits which mean some carers juggling work and care face being forced to quit their jobs or lose thousands of pounds in benefits.

Earlier this year, the charity called on Ministers to act to prevent minimum wage rise of 12p an hour resulting in the loss of £59.75 a week as working carers are pushed over the £100 earnings limit for Carer’s Allowance.

Carers UK warned that carers juggling work with caring for a loved one face the ‘absurd situation’ of either cutting employment hours or losing a total of £3,000 a year in financial support from Carer’s Allowance.[1]

Carer’s Allowance – currently £59.75 a week – is available to support those caring for an older, disabled or seriously ill loved one for 35 hours a week with an allowable earnings limit of £100 a week.

Carers UK argues that the benefit’s ‘cliff-edge’ earnings limit is outdated and is in conflict with the Government’s changes to the benefits system.

Heléna Herklots, Chief Executive of Carers UK, said: “There is a complete contradiction with the Government’s objective of trying to make the interaction between work and benefits easier for families. These are carers often already struggling with the incredibly difficult balance of work and caring and simply can’t have a situation where they are being given the impossible choice of leaving work or losing vital support from the benefits system. Carers UK warned earlier this year that this would penalise carers for caring and for working. The Government must act urgently to make the necessary adjustments to the rules on Carer’s Allowance to tackle it.”

Carers often find it difficult to find part-time jobs with the right number of hours and which are flexible enough to fit round their caring responsibilities. They also find themselves having to turn down extra hours or promotion to avoid being pushed slightly over the earnings limit and losing Carer’s Allowance.

Each year, with the uprating of the minimum wage, Carers UK hears from carers whose earnings rise over £100 by just a matter of pence and who are forced to choose between giving up work, reducing hours or losing their benefits.

Carers also receiving Working Tax Credit could be hit the hardest – as if they cut their working hours in order to stay under the Carer’s Allowance earnings limit, they would instead lose thousands of pounds in tax credits.

Carers UK believes a straight forward way to mitigate some of the effects would be to increase the Carer’s Allowance earnings limit. This was last done in April 2010 when the limit was increased from £95 to £100.