Increase in Carer’s Allowance overpayments causes distress to families with disabled children

3 mins read

Wednesday 24 April 2024

Tags: carer's allowance

Carer’s Allowance overpayments have increased in the last year, official data shows. This is despite the government pledging to address the issue in 2019.

In recent months Contact has heard from parents who have had a small lump sum pay rise which has pushed them over the Carer’s Allowance earnings limit, so they have had to pay it back. Some have been worried about, others have had to refuse a pay rise for fear of losing their Carer’s Allowance.

Fear of losing Carer’s Allowance

Anna Bird, Chief Executive of Contact, said: “During this cost of living crisis every penny counts for families with disabled children. Families are telling us they are working harder than ever in the home and at work to care for their child as well as make ends meet. To hear of families on low incomes having to turn down a well-earned pay rise for fear of losing their Carer’s Allowance is shocking.”

Contact has long campaigned for improvements to Carer’s Allowance – an increase in the weekly payment, an increase in the earnings limit and the removal of the cliff edge when a carer earns over that limit and loses all their benefit. As well as reforming the system so that carers who study or claim a pension are not penalised.

Over the limit

Lisa Jenkins said: “I currently work 15hrs a week in school catering for my local authority at £9.96hr. (My wages are skimmed off to pay me through school holidays as I work in school catering).

“Last April we were awarded a pay rise (which brought us to the current limit of £9.96). However the payment wasn’t made until November, so I had 7 months backdated in my November pay. This took me over the Carer’s Allowance earnings limit. I now have to pay back £383, and I’ve had my Carer’s Allowance suspended since February.

“I can’t work anymore hours, I struggle to do a full month with my little boy because he has so many illnesses. I’ve been left to feel like I’ve committed a fraud and purposely pulled the wool over their eyes.”

In 2019 it was revealed that the Department for Work and Pensions intended to recover £150 million in overpaid Carer’s Allowance from 80,000 carers. At the time, the National Audit Office warned that the Government had failed to consider the impact the fines will have on already vulnerable families – many of whom are unemployed due to caring responsibilities. And we alongside many other disability charities warned that the majority of cases of overpayment are due to innocent mistakes by the claimant or the DWP’s own administration errors.

Punitive system

Contact urged the DWP to drop its pursuit of carers for overpayment and continue to do so.

Anna Bird added: “Instead of pursuing carers for repayment, we urge the Department for Work and Pensions to address the Carer’s Allowance earnings threshold. It is an indictment on our welfare system that carers who are doing so much are faced with such a punitive system.”

If your earnings are slightly above the limit, you can look at making deductions for example paying for childcare costs or into a pension scheme to ensure you keep your Carer’s Allowance.

Need advice?

More information and advice about Carer’s Allowance.

Find out more about our Carer’s Allowance campaign.