MPs have called for the scrapping of the current carer’s allowance and the introduction of new benefits.
The Commons work and pensions committee said in a report published today that the weekly allowance of £50.55 was “outdated” because of rising financial pressures on carers and urged the government to radically overhaul the system.
The MPs said they were “disappointed” by the government’s failure to directly address benefits in the carers strategy. Instead, the government pledged a review in the strategy published in June.
The committee proposed a two-tier benefit, made up of an allowance for unemployed carers or those earning a modest amount, and a “caring costs” allowance for all carers including those over state pensionable age.
It also urged the government to consider lifting the current bar on claiming carer’s allowance for those studying more than 21 hours a week to increase carers’ employment opportunities.
The MPs said that many carers struggled to remain in work because of a lack of care services and called on the government to use the forthcoming green paper on adult social care funding to create a “financially adequate and sustainable” system.
The committee’s 42 recommendations also included requiring public bodies to “carer-proof” their policies, more specialist support for carers at job centres, protection against discrimination in the workplace and improving advice services.
Terry Rooney MP, chair of the committee, said: “The Department for Work and Pensions needs to provide adequate financial support for those who provide care when of working age, either by compensating them for the extra costs of caring, or, if they need to give up work to care, through adequate income replacement and pension protection mechanisms.”
Carer’s groups welcomed the report. Imelda Redmond, chief executive of Carer’s UK, said the current level of carer’s allowance was “insultingly low” and should be replaced by the two-tier system.
“Government has promised a review of benefits but the message from carers is clear: we can’t wait. Many carers are living in poverty and rising fuel and food prices are hitting them hard. Their unpaid contribution to society is worth £87bn each year, yet carer’s allowance is just £50.55 per week. Carers deserve better and need change now,” she added.
Stephen Burke, chief executive of Counsel and Care, said next year’s green paper on the funding of adult social care needed to lead to greater support for carers.