Nearly 135,000 people to pay back DWP Carer’s Allowance worth a total of £251 million

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has confirmed that by May 14, 2024, nearly 135,000 people had an outstanding debt due to overpayments of Carer’s Allowance. Pensions Minister Paul Maynard said that a total of £251 million is due to be repaid by 134,800 current or previous claimants of the benefit.

He explained: “This figure represents the total stock and as such the total monetary amount may have been accrued over multiple years. Those who have an outstanding Carer's Allowance debt may no longer be in receipt of the benefit.”

Women make up the majority of Carer’s Allowance claims, and this is reflected in the proportion of those with an outstanding Carer’s Allowance debt. As of May 14, there were 42,800 (32%) men, 91,900 (68%) women and 100 (less than 1%) not identified, with an outstanding Carers Allowance debt. The latest DWP figures show there were over 991,000 people in receipt of Carers Allowance at the end of November 2023.

That figure is made up of over 271,000 (27%) men and 720,000 (73%) women.

Carer’s Allowance is now worth £81.90 each week and the weekly earnings limit to ensure eligibility for the benefit is £151.

The Work and Pensions Committee has called on the DWP to urgently improve how it monitors and communicates Carer’s Allowance overpayments, warning that there has not been progress in limiting the impact of the problems faced by many unpaid carers since a previous Committee report five years ago.

In a letter to Work and Pensions Secretary of State Mel Stride MP, following evidence sessions on Carer’s Allowance in March and April, the Committee highlights how overpayments remain a significant issue for carers, with concerns about the mental distress experienced by those who realise they have been overpaid and the DWP taking several years to recover high value overpayments.

The letter welcomes last week’s announcement from the UK Government on plans to consider contact through email and text messages, but says it is “imperative that the changes are introduced without delay and a lengthy process of trials”.

The correspondence repeats the Committee’s recommendation from its Benefit levels in the UK report from March that Carer’s Allowance should be benchmarked against living costs. It also highlights concerns and recommendations relating to the relationship between Carer’s Allowance and work, including recommending the introduction of a taper rate, and the importance of ensuring Carer’s Allowance supports young adult carers.

Sir Stephen Timms MP, Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee, said: “The Government has known for years about flaws that have plagued the payments system for Carer’s Allowance but has 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.

“On top of the problems with overpayments, we have heard how the rate of Carer’s Allowance leaves many struggling to make ends meet. The Government should make sure that carers who carry out their tasks without reward are made to feel valued by ensuring that the payment properly reflects living costs.”

Last week, the Committee wrote to the National Audit Office to encourage a further investigation into the issue.

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.”

Mel Stride will appear before the Work and Pensions Committee on May 22 where questions on this topic are expected to be asked by the group of cross-party MPs.

You can read Sir Stephen Timms’ letter to Mel Stride here.