Carers’ benefits do not meet their needs and should be reformed, the government has acknowledged.
However, changes to carers’ benefits will be considered only as part of the wider plans for welfare reform, according to a memorandum issued on Friday by Minister of State for Disabled People Jonathan Shaw MP.
The document, issued in response to the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee’s July report, Valuing and Supporting Carers, says: “Whilst the government does not accept the general level of support provided to help with caring and the costs of a disability is inadequate, the government does accept that the support available to carers does not differentiate sufficiently between the different needs and circumstances of carers.”
It goes on to say that the white paper, Raising Expectations and Increasing Support: reforming welfare for the future, has already set out the government’s commitment to simplifying and improving the benefits system, and that this exercise “will provide an appropriate opportunity to examine the role and scope of carers’ benefits”.
Imelda Redmond, chief executive of Carers UK, welcomed the statement, but added: “We are disappointed that the government has refused to make even minor changes to Carer’s Allowance, such as removing the illogical rule which prevents carers studying for more than 21 hours per week from receiving the benefit, even if they are caring for more than 35 hours per week.
“This rule prevents carers from improving their employment prospects and leaves them trapped on benefits.”
The government’s memorandum, which responds to all of the recommendations made by the Work and Pensions Committee earlier this year, also recognises that access to the Benefit Enquiry Line’s service has been unacceptably low in recent months. New staff and steps to allow staff at the Disability Living Allowance/Attendance Allowance Helpline to assist with some enquiries will help, it says.
Valuing and Supporting Carers Fourth Report of Session 2007–08