Carers UK welcome U-turn on moving carers off income support

Carers UK has welcomed the government’s decision to drop plans to move carers off income support (IS) pending a longer-term review of benefits for the group.

The announcement, in yesterday’s welfare reform white paper, reversed a proposal in this summer’s welfare reform green paper to move carers off IS on to a modified form of jobseeker’s allowance. This was as part of moves to simplify the benefits system for people out of work.

Though carers would not have been required to seek work, unlike other JSA claimants, Carers UK said many carers felt it was insulting and misleading to be placed on JSA given they were not unemployed.

Clear and detailed plan

Instead, the white paper said the government would not attempt to move carers off IS until it had a “clear and detailed plan”.

In this year’s carers strategy, ministers pencilled in a review of the benefits system for 2011 onwards.

But Imelda Redmond, chief executive of Carers UK, repeated her calls for an “urgent and radical overhaul of carers’ benefits” and called on the government to set out a timetable to meet its 2018 pledge to ensure that carers did not fall into financial hardship due to their caring role.

She said: “We cannot wait for government reforms to welfare and social care to be completed before tackling carers’ benefits. Three-quarters of carers are struggling to pay essential bills and more than half are in debt. Many want to work but can’t because of a lack of flexible and affordable care services.”

Possible mandatory drugs treatment

Meanwhile, drug information charity DrugScope has warned that plans to introduce a special allowance for drug misusers in the white paper could be a “Trojan horse” for mandatory treatment.

Under the government’s proposals, benefit claimants who declare themselves as drug users will be referred to specialist services, with possible sanction for those who refuse to comply without “good reason”. A treatment allowance would also be set up to help fund a claimant’s rehabilitation.

However, those who are suspected of having a heroin or crack problem may be asked to undergo an assessment and the use of mandatory drug testing has not been ruled out.

DrugScope chief executive Martin Barnes said: “There is no evidence that using benefit sanctions to compel problem drug users into treatment will be effective. A benefit regime for problem drug users should support their progress towards recovery, not punish those already vulnerable.”

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