DWP warning as tens of thousands of carers face having to pay back money

A worried woman
A worried woman -Credit:SCU

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has issued a warning as tens of thousands of carers are forced to repay millions. Unpaid carers have to repay more than £250million after being unknowingly overpaid their allowance.

The government is now seeking to recover money from over 130,000 carers. A report from 2019 warned that this could happen, saying carers could be "heavily penalised for making honest mistakes", as claims errors were not being spotted quickly enough by the DWP.

Unpaid carers who provide care for someone for more than 35 hours a week are entitled to receive the Carer's Allowance from the DWP. However, they are only eligible if they earn less than £151 per week after tax. If this is exceeded - such as through working overtime or a pay rise - they are no longer eligible and have to repay any allowance received in full, reports the Express.

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On Thursday, the Work and Pensions Committee warned there has "not been progress" in limiting the impact of the problems raised five years ago and called on the DWP to "improve urgently" how it monitors and communicates allowance overpayments. Sir Stephen Timms, the committee chair, said the government "has known for years" about the issues, but had "just allowed many unpaid carers to unwittingly rack up unmanageable levels of debt".

"The DWP must now move without delay to get a grip of the problem and ensure carers are no longer subjected to the distress that such overpayments can cause," he said. The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has come under scrutiny after figures released following a parliamentary question from Labour MP Timms revealed that more than twice as many women are in debt due to overpayments, which aligns with the proportion receiving Carer's Allowance.

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The DWP has maintained that "claimants have a responsibility to inform DWP of any changes in their circumstances that could impact their award, and it is right that we recover taxpayers' money when this has not occurred". However, carers have countered they were unaware of exceeding the earnings limit until being hit with demands for repayment years later.

Karina Moon, who cares for her daughter Amber needing constant attention, finds herself £11,000 in debt after slightly surpassing the earnings threshold through her part-time supermarket job. She's been repaying at a rate of £60 a month for four years and faces another 11 years of payments.

"It takes money out of our income", she expressed, highlighting the impact on essentials like running a car, paying bills, and buying food. Gina Price, who looked after her father while working part-time at a petrol station in Carmarthenshire, south-west Wales, now faces a DWP debt of around £7,000, describing the financial hit as a "huge blow".

Sir Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat leader and a carer himself, has urged for these debts to be written off. In response to the issue, the DWP has stated it is "progressing an enhanced notification strategy" to better inform carers about potential overpayments.

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