DWP in stark warning to thousands of carers following £250million of overpayments

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has issued a stark warning as it emerges that tens of thousands of carers are being forced to repay millions.

Unpaid carers are having to return more than £250million after unknowingly receiving overpayments on their allowance. The government is now in the process of reclaiming money from over 130,000 carers. A report from 2019 had previously warned of this potential issue, stating that carers could be "heavily penalised for making honest mistakes", as errors in claims were not being identified 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 only qualify if they earn less than £151 per week after tax. If this threshold is exceeded - such as through working overtime or receiving a pay rise - they are no longer eligible and must repay any allowance received in full.

READ MORE: Freezer trick will ensure a cool night's sleep after day of sunshine

On Thursday, the Work and Pensions Committee expressed concern that there has "not been progress" in mitigating the impact of the problems highlighted five years ago and urged the DWP to "improve urgently" how it monitors and communicates allowance overpayments.

Sir Stephen Timms, the chair of the committee, said the government "has known for years" about these issues, but had "just allowed many unpaid carers to unwittingly rack up unmanageable levels of debt". He added: "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."

READ MORE: Mancunians relax in the sun on the 'hottest day of year' so far - in pictures

The latest statistics, disclosed by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) following a question in parliament from Labour MP Stephen Timms, reveal that over twice as many women are indebted due to overpayments, which aligns with the number of women receiving Carer's Allowance, reports the Express.

The DWP has previously stated: "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 argue they were unaware of surpassing the earnings threshold, only to discover years later that they owed substantial sums.

Karina Moon, who provides constant care for her daughter Amber, finds herself £11,000 in debt after slightly exceeding the earnings limit through her part-time job at a supermarket. She has been repaying £60 monthly for the past four years and faces another 11 years of payments. "It takes money out of our income", she said, highlighting the financial strain. "it's money that would help me run the car, help pay bills, put food on the table".

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 due to overpayments, describing the debt as a "huge blow".

Sir Ed Davey, the leader of the Liberal Democrats and a carer himself, has urged for these debts to be written off.

The DWP has announced it is "progressing an enhanced notification strategy" to better inform carers about potential overpayments.