People who suddenly take on a caring role need to receive a statutory payment like sick pay to cover them financially due to the timelag in receiving benefits, the work and pensions select committee heard this week.
In a hearing on the government’s carers strategy, which is expected shortly, the panel of MPs heard that people often had to wait several months for financial recompense after becoming a carer, due to current benefits rules.
Carers can only claim carer’s allowance – now worth £50.55 a week – if the person they care for claims attendance or disability living allowance, which are only available if you have been disabled for three or six months repectively.
Vicky Pearlman, social policy officer for Citizens Advice, said: “In that period, whether it’s three months or six months, carers are effectively doing that work unrecognised. Yet at the beginning of the carer role, that’s often where the biggest costs are incurred.”
Representing the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services and the Local Government Association, Hertfordshire Council head of money advice Gary Vaux backed a statutory carers payment – payable as soon as people take on a caring role.
Vaux, also a Community Care columnist, added: “We’re very conscious that in that six months waiting for attendance allowance to kick in the carer is very often given a very stark choice of not being a carer or giving up their work. Many employers would say you have to leave work if you’re going to take three, four, five months off to care for a disabled person.”
Complicated benefits system
The DWP was also criticised for creating an overly complicated benefits system. Vaux said: “If you have two disabled people who are living together and also care for each other, it seems to send the benefits system into some sort of meltdown. Are they disabled, are they carers? It usually needs the intervention of somebody from the outside to actually work the system to the advantage of the carer.”