New update on calls to increase weekly Carer’s Allowance to £182 to match half National Living Wage rate

Unpaid carers in Scotland automatically qualify for an extra payment of £245 twice a year
The DWP has rejected arguments in an online petition calling for higher payments for unpaid carers. -Credit:Getty Images

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has rejected proposals in an online petition calling for reforms to the Carer’s Allowance benefit and a rise in weekly payments to £182.36. The DWP said that the means-tested benefit provides “some financial recognition that a carer may not be able to work full-time” adding that it is “part of a range of support based on individual needs, rather than a wage”.

More than 13,600 people have signed the e-petition created by Austin Powell-Allen, who proposed that the benefit should be paid at a rate to match 35 hours at 50 per cent of the National Living Wage rate. This suggested increase would see nearly one million people claiming Carer’s Allowance, including 83,903 living in Scotland, receive £182. 36 each week, some £729.44 every four-week pay period.

Carer’s Allowance is now worth £81.90 each week following the annual uprating in April. The earnings limit has also risen from £139 per week to £151.

People in Scotland claiming the new Carer Support Payment are paid at the same weekly rate as DWP and have the same earnings threshold.

The petition argues that unpaid carers are “expected to provide at least 35 hours a week care so the allowance is equivalent to £2.10 an hour”.

Mr Powell-Allen states in the ‘Increase Carer’s Allowance to equal 35 hours at 50% of the living wage’ petition: “Currently you’re expected to provide at least 35 hours a week care so the allowance is equivalent to £2.10 an hour. We believe this is taking advantage of hard working unpaid carers, who sacrifice their own life and work prospects.

“Many carers are exhausted, and if we want to work there are strict limits on earnings. We believe carers are taken advantage of and under-supported.”

In its written response on May 2, the DWP said: “The Government fully recognises the invaluable contribution that unpaid and family carers make in providing significant care and continuity of support to their loved ones. Unpaid carers play a vital role in the lives of their family and friends - and since 2010 we have increased Carer’s Allowance by almost £1500 a year. The weekly rate of Carer’s Allowance is £81.90 a week.”

The DWP continued: “It is important to emphasise that Carer’s Allowance is not intended to be a replacement for a wage, nor is it payment for the services of caring. It is, therefore, not comparable with either the National Minimum or National Living Wage. The principal purpose of Carer’s Allowance is to provide a measure of financial support and recognition who are not able to work full time due to their caring responsibilities.”

It added how successive Governments have supported carers through allowances and benefits, as well as wider cross-Government actions, rather than paying people for tasks they undertake in the way an employer would.

DWP explained: “Unpaid carers are overwhelmingly caring for a family member or friend, rather than someone unknown to them. The amount of unpaid caring they undertake, and its intensity, will differ from carer to carer, as will their reasons and motivation for accepting caring responsibilities.

“Many can successfully combine caring with some employment, so will continue to have income from paid employment. Those unpaid carers who do need financial support may be able to get help from the benefits system - and not only from Carer’s Allowance, but from a range of means-tested benefits as well.”

DWP said that Carer’s Allowance permits carers to undertake some part-time work if they can do so, without this affecting their entitlement, adding that the earnings limit “recognises the benefits of staying in touch with the workplace, including greater financial independence and social interaction”.

It also urged carers on low incomes to claim income-related benefits, such as Universal Credit, alongside Carer’s Allowance. Currently, the Universal Credit carer element is £198.31 per monthly assessment period while the additional amount for carers in Pension Credit is £45.60 a week.

DWP said around 650,000 carer households on Universal Credit can receive around an additional £2,400 a year through the Carer Element.

You can read the full written response on the petitions-parliamentary website here.

At 100,000 signatures, the Petitions Committee would consider the petition for debate in Parliament.