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Carers are being ‘bullied’ by the government

Emma Lunn
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Emma Lunn

A committee of MPs have accused the government of bullying carers who have made honest mistakes when receiving carer’s allowance.

The Work and Pensions Committee has called on the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to completely reassess its approach and consider writing off carers’ debts.

The committee said carers are being disproportionately heavily penalised for years of DWP administrative errors or their own honest mistakes, in “a confusing and outdated system”.

The committee cited the case of a carer who was overpaid £3,000 after he accidentally worked too many hours while caring for his mother who had dementia and Alzheimer’s, and his mentally ill son. He was charged with fraud and given community service of 180 hours unpaid work. The carer’s son was taken into care and he had to move in with his mother.

Frank Field MP, chair of the committee, said: “Carers are damned if they do, damned if they don’t: penalised as soon as they earn even a pound over the threshold, and punished by the department’s own administrative failures and hopelessly outdated systems.

“The department sets itself no targets for tackling fraud and error for individual benefits, yet jumps on struggling carers for every honest mistake. DWP has got its priorities all wrong. Bullying carers is no way to recognise, much less support, the invaluable contribution they make to our society and the people they care for, or the hundreds of billions of pounds they save the taxpayer. Will the government now please get off the back of carers? They have important work to do.”

It is estimated that there are about 7 million carers in the UK. Collectively they make an unpaid contribution of £132bn to the UK economy every year.

Most people will become a carer at some point in their lives, caring for a partner, parent, friend or disabled child who cannot cope without their support.

According to Carers UK’s 2019 State of Caring report, 39 per cent of carers are in financial hardship and 73 per cent of carers on Carer’s Allowance are unable to afford to save for retirement.