DWP knew about Carer’s Allowance problems three years ago but 'suppressed' them

Ministers knew about Carer’s Allowance problems three years ago, a report has found. A suppressed Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) study told of hardship endured by carers forced to repay thousands after minor allowance breaches.

The report found carers were frustrated at the meagre £81.90 weekly allowance given they were saving the state money. The report from 2021 detailed how carers were "heavily penalised for falling foul of strict carer’s allowance eligibility rules", the Guardian reports.

It comes after a series of carers were prosecuted and told to repay money to the DWP after earning above the controversial allowance. The DWP report was commissioned in 2019 after a parliamentary inquiry but ministers repeatedly blocked its publication in 2021 after it was ready to see the light of day.

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The National Audit Office investigation in 2019 found only a small minority of overpayments were fraudulent. And this was backed up by an inquiry later that year by MPs which concluded most of the breaches were “honest mistakes”.

“As an unpaid carer you don’t get much recognition for what you do. If I was not here she [the person I care for] would be in a care home and that would be costing a small fortune,” one carer told researchers during the study.

Ramzi Suleiman, the Carers Trust’s policy manager, spoke out in the wake of the development and fumed yesterday: “It’s no surprise these errors are made when the benefit is so overly complex, outdated and in dire need of reform.”

Helen Walker, the chief executive at Carers UK, said in a statement yesterday: “We are really pleased to see the DWP’s research on carer’s allowance finally in the public domain so we can begin to have constructive discussions with decision-makers and officials about the future of carer’s allowance.”

A DWP spokesperson said: “Carers across the UK are unsung heroes who make a huge difference to someone else’s life and we have increased carer’s allowance by almost £1,500 since 2010. We are progressing an enhanced notification strategy as part of our ongoing commitment to customer engagement, which will help ensure customers fulfil their obligations to inform DWP when changes in their circumstances have occurred, building on existing communications.

“We are committed to fairness in the welfare system, with safeguards in place for managing repayments, while protecting the public purse.”