Lib Dem election video broadcast highlights issues faced by carers

Unpaid carers who have unknowingly received more allowance than they were entitled to face “persecution”, a carer has said.

In the Liberal Democrats’ second broadcast video of the General Election campaign, party leader Sir Ed Davey called for “change” to the wider care system.

The party has also called for an “amnesty to carers being hounded for overpayments by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)”.

Among the other parties, the Conservatives have promised to “stand behind our carers” in their manifesto and the Green Party has called for an “end to the unfair targeting of carers and disabled people on benefits” among its pledges.

In the broadcast fronted by Sir Ed, the party leader asked an unpaid carer: “It’s basically a full-time job for you, isn’t it?”

The carer (pictured with Sir Ed), whose name does not feature in the clip, said: “It can be, yes.

“I went back to work more for my mental health, just because I felt I was just trapped here all the time.”

Sitting in a back garden, Sir Ed said: “You came to see me about the way that the DWP say you were overpaid on carer’s allowance.”

The carer replied: “£4,612.”

She added: “It’s stressful enough being a carer without being told that you’ve been fraudulent and you’ve been earning too much money.

“I earn less than £7,000 a year.

“This persecution of unpaid carers is a scandal and it needs to stop.”

Sir Ed later said: “You know, if you’re going to have a fair deal in our country where people who work hard, care for their loved ones, stick by the rules, don’t get suddenly penalised, we’ve got to change things.”

The party leader also met Morag from Glasgow on camera, who was going through her fourth cancer when the party shot its video, and another carer and A-level student in London.

Unpaid carers who look after someone for at least 35 hours a week are entitled to receive carer’s allowance, but they are only eligible if they earn less than £151 per week after tax.

If they breach this strict cap – which could include overtime payments – their whole allowance is marked as an overpayment which they must hand back to the Government.

According to the Government’s response to a written question by Labour’s Sir Stephen Timms, 134,800 people had an outstanding carer’s allowance debt on May 14 this year – to a value of £251 million.

In 2019 the House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee looked into overpayments and found “carers can be heavily penalised when they make honest mistakes”.

A report into the issue reads: “If a claimant fails to report a rise in their earnings of even £1 which takes them above the weekly threshold, the department would effectively be overpaying them by £66.15 a week.

“This is compounded by the fact that the department has, for many years, allowed overpayments to build up because of administrative failures and a prolonged lack of resources.

“The department has belatedly decided to remedy its past failures, but pursuing these debts can be costly for both the department and the carers affected.”

A 2024 report by the DWP found 3% of current carer’s allowance claimants had experienced an overpayment.

“Not all claimants who had experienced overpayments were sure of the reason for it and some felt there could have been clearer and more compassionate communication around it from the DWP,” researchers found.

In addition to an “amnesty” for carers who have experienced overpayment, the Liberal Democrats have pledged to raise carer’s allowance by £1,040 a year.

The party has also pledged to introduce a young carers pupil premium which “would provide more money for schools to help the estimated 54,000 young people currently balancing their caring responsibilities with their education” – in addition to the existing pupil premium for disadvantaged pupils in state-funded schools in England.

Party campaigners used their first election broadcast to discuss Sir Ed’s own experience caring for his mother – who died aged 46 – as a teenager and then his son John as an adult.

The Conservative Party’s manifesto reads: “We hugely value the work that unpaid carers do supporting their loved ones.

“We have increased carer’s allowance by almost £1,500 since 2010 and given employees who are also unpaid carers entitlement to a period of unpaid leave.

“We will continue to stand behind our carers.”

The Green Party’s manifesto reads: “To address the social care crisis, elected Greens will push for: free personal care to ensure dignity in old age and for disabled people; increased pay rates and a career structure for carers to rebuild the care workforce; investment of £20 billion per year.”

Labour is set to release its manifesto on Thursday.

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