Sat, 18 May 2024

Newsletter sign-up

Subscribe now
The House Live All
Addressing the veterinary workforce shortage Partner content
By Baroness Kennedy
Construction sector could cut prison leaver unemployment with right support Partner content
Press releases

Committee Chair Tells DWP To "Get A Grip" On Carer's Allowance Overpayments

Chair of the work and pensions committee Stephen Timms has said the government must "get a grip" on carer's allowances overpayments. (Alamy)

3 min read

Labour MP Stephen Timms, chair of the work and pensions select committee, has insisted the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) must "get a grip" on carer's allowance overpayments.

Carers have been pursued by the DWP for repayments on overpaid carers allowance after unknowingly earning more than the threshold for the £81.90-a-week benefit, according to campaigners for carers. Figures from 2022/23 showed tens of thousands of people have been pursued for repayments, with 36 people pursued for sums greater than £20,000.

Last week The Observer reported carers who have received over payments have also been threatened with criminal prosecution. 

Timms told PoliticsHome he was "concerned" about the current situation and said it was an issue the DWP had been made aware of in the past. 

"At the time they did receive quite a few reassurances that this would not carry on happening, but it clearly is carrying on happening," he said. 

"We were always assured that the DWP, because it gets information from HMRC on how much people are earning, should be able to stop people's carers allowance once it happens, and explain to them what's happened, and then they won't get these huge overpayments.

"But because the department doesn't seem to be doing that, it's just allowing these things to run on. That's why these very serious problems are arising. The department needs to get on top of this and stop these very, very terrible incidents like the one that's been reported recently."

Timms also said while there may be questions about whether the current system is "the right way to do carer's allowance", the government needed to "act quickly" to address the problems in the system. 

"They need to get a grip on it, they've got the information," he said.

"If somebody isn't entitled to care of allowance, then they need to act quickly and stop the claim, and not allow people to not jump thousands and thousands of pounds of debt, there's no reason for that to be allowed to happen.

Helen Walker, Chief Executive of Carers UK, on Thursday said the overpayments and pursuing of the money by the DWP was "indicative of a much wider issue about how unpaid carers are valued and treated by government and by society". 

"A wholescale reform and review of Carer’s Allowance and other carers’ benefits is needed to ensure these adequately support unpaid carers during the time they spend caring for someone and so that the system does not punish them for misinterpreting complicated and harsh earnings rules," Walker said. 

“It’s shocking that there has been so little investment in the way that Carer’s Allowance is operated and the tight rules mean that many carers who need it, aren’t getting it. It’s even worse when you consider how much unpaid carers’ support is worth, which is billions every year.   

“We need the systems within the Department for Work and Pensions to understand and tackle some of the challenges carers face in claiming benefits much better. We want to see the Department’s research, which they commissioned several years ago and, despite repeated requests, has not been published."

The DWP has been approached for comment.

PoliticsHome Newsletters

PoliticsHome provides the most comprehensive coverage of UK politics anywhere on the web, offering high quality original reporting and analysis: Subscribe

Read the most recent article written by Nadine Batchelor-Hunt - Food Bank Provider Challenges Parties To Commit To Benefit Debt Reform


Social affairs