Carers ‘Need More Financial Help’
The government must give more money to help Britain’s six million unpaid carers, MPs have said. The Commons work and pensions committee said people who looked after friends and relatives saved the taxpayer £87bn.
It recommended income replacement for those unable to work because of their commitments, and compensation for costs incurred during “intensive” caring.
The Carer’s Allowance is currently £50.55 a week. Ministers said they were working to give carers more “balance”.
In its report – Valuing and Supporting Carers – the committee said more state help was of “critical importance”.
It recommended income replacement for carers who were only able to work part-time.
The MPs said they were “disappointed” the government had not directly addressed financial help for carers in its Carers Strategy launched earlier this year, and that the group was identified as a long-term priority only from 2011.
Carers struggled to stay in work and often suffered “opportunity penalties”, finding their vocational skills became rusty and out of date, they said.
The committee’s chairman, Labour MP Terry Rooney, said: “Caring matters deeply to individuals, families and society in general.
“Sustaining the ability of carers to provide the care and support they give to others is of critical importance.”
‘Matter of urgency’
Citizens Advice welfare policy officer Vicky Pearlman, who gave evidence to the committee, agreed the system was outdated and needed to be overhauled.
She said: “The current system is enormously complicated, and even Department for Work and Pensions staff struggle to correctly identify, and clearly explain, the benefits that carers and their families are entitled to.
“It is crucial that the government takes action to boost carers’ incomes as a matter of urgency.”
Imelda Redmond, chief executive of campaign group Carers UK, said the existing Carer’s Allowance was “insultingly low”.
“The two-tier benefit recommended by the committee would be a major improvement to the current system,” she said.
“Carers need a separate benefit which recognises that they are not unemployed but are making an important contribution to society.”
Anne McGuire, minister for disabled people, said: “We are working with employers to ensure that carers can have a better balance between their work and caring responsibilities.
“The government is committed to reviewing the care and support system as part of the longer-term welfare reform programme.
“We welcome this report, which is a valuable contribution to the debate. We will study the recommendations and respond to them in due course.”
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said carers’ problems are “being listened to”.
Earlier this year he told the BBC he would personally oversee government policy, which could see changes to the Carer’s Allowance.