Victory for carers over benefit cap
The Government has announced that Carers Allowance is to be exempt from the list of qualifying benefits for the benefit cap. The announcement was made last night by Lord Freud, Minister of State for the Department of Work and Pensions, in a House of Lords debate on the Welfare Reform and Work Bill.
The announcement came in response to an amendment tabled by Baroness Pitkeathley following a landmark ruling from the High Court on carers affected by the benefit cap. The judgement ruled that the Government was unlawfully discriminating against disabled people and their carers.
Currently, exemption for households includes Disability Living Allowance or Personal Independence Payment but does not protect all families affected by disability and carers in certain circumstances. Carers looking after disabled partners and disabled children under 18 are exempt from the cap whereas those caring for adult disabled children, siblings or elderly parents are subject to it.
The Government’s stated objective for the benefit cap is to encourage more households to move into work. A lower tiered cap was designed to strengthen the work incentives for those on benefits.
Carers' support vital to economy
In her speech to the House of Lords, Baroness Pitkeathley argued that: “The value of unpaid carers’ support to the economy is £132 billion a year – the cost of a second health service. Indeed without the support from carers, health and social care systems would simply collapse.
“While it is true that some carers combine work and care, for the majority the intensity of their caring role means that this is simply not possible. For those who combine heavy caring with significant work, the prospect of reaching breaking point, where carers suffer exhaustion and physical and mental breakdown, is greatly increased.”
All recipients exempt
In response, Lord Freud said: “We want to go further; we will be exempting all recipients of Carer’s Allowance from the benefit cap, whether they are single or part of a couple. This approach fits within the wider government strategy to support and invest in carers. Many carers wish to enter paid employment and many have done so while sustaining the role.”
If you are a carer for someone who has an illness or disability, the ‘Carer’ section of our website has information about benefits, grants or other financial support that may be available to you.