Ministers urged to end benefits ‘cliff edge’ for carers who also have a job

The Government is being urged by MPs to end the benefits “cliff edge” for carers who also work which can see them lose out if they receive even a small rise in pay.

The Commons Work and Pensions Committee said the way the system is operating is contrary to the Government’s principle that “work should always pay”.

Carers who look after a partner, parent or disabled child currently lose their full weekly carer’s allowance of £64.40 if their earnings rise above £120 a week, potentially creating a disincentive to work.

The committee said the allowance should be withdrawn gradually as income rises, in line with the Universal Credit taper system.

“Carers are simply doing the only thing imaginable: looking after a partner, parent, friend or disabled child who cannot cope without their support,” it said.

“A pay rise can leave parents facing the choice between losing carer’s allowance and losing free childcare for their three or four-year-old which requires them to work 16 hours a week.

“These benefits system cliff edges are contrary to the Government’s objective of ensuring work always pays.”

In other recommendations the committee urged the Government to link the earnings threshold to rises in the National Living Wage.

It said carers should be able to request flexible working from the first day of their employment rather than having to wait six months and called for the introduction of five days statutory paid carer’s leave “when resources allow”.

Committee chairman Frank Field said: “Carers are heroic and undervalued. They are a great untapped resource for our high employment, low productivity economy – and a sorely unrecognised one.

“They contribute hundreds of billions of pounds in unpaid work to our economy which is not counted on any Treasury balance sheet.

“Ensuring work pays and that employers adapt to accommodate caring is not just good for the carers: it is necessary for the whole economy.”

A Government spokesperson said: “Most people will care for friends or family members at some point in their life, and it’s right that we recognise the vitally important role carers play in our society.

“Carer’s Allowance provides over 800,000 working age carers and around 15,000 pension age carers with financial support.

“We will be setting out a Carer’s Action Plan in due course which will focus on the support that carers need and deserve.”

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