MPs call on Department for Work and Pensions to stop "bullying" carers
Friday 2nd August 2019
A cross-party committee of MPs has called on the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to stop forcing carers to pay back overpaid Carer's Allowance.
Instead, debts should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, starting with debts over £2,500 and taking into account culpability, the cost of recouping payments and the impact on the carer's life. Frank Field MP, Chair of the Select Committee said, ""Bullying carers is no way to recognise, much less support, the invaluable contribution they make to our society and the people they care for".
The select committee have been investigating the DWP's decision to recover the £150 million it overpaid in Carer's Allowance to over 80,000 carers.
The National Audit Office (NAO) had found that in most cases these overpayments were not as a result of fraud but rather innocent mistakes such as a carer not understanding how an increase in earnings might affect their carer's allowance. The NAO had also found that many of these overpayments could have been detected much earlier if sufficient staff and better processes had been put in place.
Some of the families Contact supports have been affected by this, and we are calling on the government to drop its pursuit of carers who have been overpaid mostly due to innocent mistakes and the department's own administration issues.
Una Summerson, Head of Policy at Contact, said: "Instead of pursuing carers for repayment, we urge the Department for Work and Pensions to increase the Carer's Allowance earnings threshold as well as providing clear information about how earnings can impact on this benefit
"We know that the majority of cases of overpayment are due to innocent mistakes such as a carer not understanding how an increase in their earnings might affect their Carer's Allowance, or is unaware that starting a full-time course of education meant they were no longer entitled.
"The government also needs to ensure that the information provided to carers is clearer and easier to understand and that it has sufficient staff and systems in place to identify overpayments at a much earlier point."