DWP boss says they won't stop chasing overpayments with 67,000 people on radar

The Department for Work and Pensions boss Mel Stride has broken his silence after thousands of carers were chased for overpayments - with some told to pay back as much as £5,000. The DWP is prosecuting unpaid carers who've breached the Carer's Allowance threshold, and Mr Stride admits more carers will be targeted.

The DWP minister said: "Elements of that problem hinges upon the threshold, which is currently an earnings threshold of £151 per week as a kind of proxy for establishing whether somebody is in gainful employment or not, because of course, the benefit is there for those that are caring for 35 hours per week."

Mr Stride went on to say: "I think we should just be clear that this isn't one of those simple things where you just flick a switch and solve the problem. It's quite complex. Part of the problem, of course, has arisen over this issue of notification and whether sufficient notification has been provided to people who may have found themselves in excess of that threshold, for whatever reason."

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It also emerged that the DWP's latest figures for incorrect payments are that 5.2 per cent of claims need to be returned, which with 1.3 million Carer's Allowance claimants, means that the department is chasing more than 67,000 people to pay back their benefits.

Speaking about the cliff-edge for carers on ITV Good Morning Britain today, following an interview with Jeremy Hunt, Susanna Reid said: "Very interesting that he turned that question about that taper versus a cliff-edge for carer's allowance into saying there are people who are claiming carer's allowance who shouldn't be."

Martin Lewis, her co-host, said: "So there are two issues going on here. So you heard what I said. With a little bit more time, people will understand, we only have a limited amount of time with the Chancellor. What the cliff-edge means is normally in most benefits, if you earn £1 above a threshold, you might lose 20p of your gain type thing. Here you earn a penny over the threshold. You lose the whole £80.

"Now, I had – I was going to read out, we didn't have time – I'm going to read you one from Helen Nelen on Twitter. Got in touch with me: "My dad is blind. His wife is his carer and works 13 hours a week, minimum wage. She's been told she owes £5,000 and it's going to be taken. Her worst offence: working 50 minutes over because others didn't turn up for work. Government going after easy prey with no voice".

"138,000 people are having a claw back on carer's allowance, often because minimum wages went up and they didn't realise it pushed them over the threshold. A penny over the threshold, you lose the whole amount and they are claiming it back. So he's [Mr Hunt] saying they're looking into the clawback system, which clearly doesn't work. But the reason the clawback happens is because there's a cliff-edge and that is an unfair form of benefits, an unfair form of tax. It doesn't work on other benefits. It needs to be changed. We put it under his nose, let's hope if there's another fiscal event and I'll write to the Shadow Chancellor as well on the same issue."